1888 January 4 Orkney Herald
THE AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK. – From advices we have received from our various correspondents, we learn that farming operations, although retarded somewhat by the New Year’s holidays, are making good progress, mainly on account of the open and favourable weather which has of late been experienced. Lea ploughing is well forward. Local and Aberdeenshire dealers, who had shipped prime fat beasts in time for the Southern Christmas market have, we understand, realised good prices. Keeping beasts, at the same time, have had a very flat sale, and still show a downward tendency. Sheep have been almost entirely neglected so far as Orkney is concerned. A few months ago there was a considerable rush made by Orkney farmers in the breeding and rearing of pigs. This, however, seems now to have been checked by the modest returns for the shipments that have been made. Grain is selling badly, partly owing to the fact that the markets are partaking of a holiday character; but farmers and others are looking forward to a better price in the course of a month or two.
1888 January 11 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – SOCIAL GATHERING. – New Year’s Day was observed in this island on Monday, 2nd January. On the evening of that day – by the invitation of the young men – the young ladies in this district, along with a few of the old folks, were invited to an evening’s enjoyment in the Frotoft Public School. At half-past five all sat down to an excellent tea, which had been prepared by some of the married ladies present. Tea being finished, dancing was commenced, and quadrilles, polkas, schottisches, reels, country dances, &c. were gone through. At intervals, the proceedings were enlivened with songs, given by some of the gentlemen present, some of which were rendered in a masterly style. At eleven o’clock supper was served, after which dancing was again resumed, and kept up with spirit till the “sma” hours of the morning. The company were liberally applied with refreshments during the evening. After singing “Auld Lang Syne” and the usual votes of thanks having been awarded to the young ladies, old folks, committee, and three hearty cheers to the Queen, the company dispersed, all being highly pleased with their evening’s enjoyment. The music was supplied by Mr M. Craigie, Wasbister, on the violin, in his usual able and masterly style, which gave the utmost satisfaction. As this is the first of such gatherings held in Frotoft, it is to be hoped it will not be the last.
1888 January 18 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – PAROCHIAL BOARD. – At a meeting of ratepayers of Rousay and Egilshay, held in the Sourin Public School on the 11th inst., Mr John Gibson, Langskaill, and Mr Samuel Gibson, Bigland, were unanimously elected representatives to the Parochial Board.
1888 January 25 Orkney Herald
THE MISSING KIRKWALL BOAT – A FRUITLESS SEARCH. – Since the perfectly placid Sabbath which succeeded the fatal 9th of December, and again on the following Monday, no organized search has been made for the fishing boat lost during that memorable storm; nor, it is needless to say, have any further portions of the wreck yet been cast up by the sea. From that time onwards, however, there has been no falling off in the anxiety displayed by local fishermen to discover some tangible trace of her whereabouts, the current belief still being that the boat did not founder in the String, but is now lying at some point within the bay, or at least in a position beyond the current of the String. Accordingly, when on Wednesday last, word was brought by a Rousay boat which had been dredging for mussels, that her apparatus had fouled what was supposed to be the sunken craft, all the old hopes was revived, although the evidence produced was not of the most convincing character – merely some rope and scrapings of paint that had adhered to the grappling on getting clear of the obstruction. This, however, was sufficient to set everyone on the qui vive; and very soon a number of boats were ready to set out from Kirkwall harbour manned by volunteer crews. About half-past eleven four search boats started from the pier for the spot indicated by the Rousay men – the mussel ground between Gairsay and Thieves Holm – for unfortunately they had neglected to take the exact bearings. After rowing and sailing with a light southerly wind for upwards of an hour, operations were commenced about three miles out. The boats having been got into line with a space of about sixty fathoms between each, the gear was sent out and sweeping was commenced with the flood, and continued so long as the tide served – till nearly 3 o’clock. With the slack water again the work was resumed in the opposite direction till 4 p.m.; and although several times the lines fouled and the grapnels were hopefully sent overboard, the obstructions proved to be only stones and rocks. By this time the tide had become too strong; and this, combined with the approach of night, forced the boats to suspend operations. On Thursday another search party were equally unsuccessful. In addition to the £10 formerly collected in Westray by Mr David Small, coastguard officer, Provost Peace has to acknowledge the receipt of £4 4s additional, being £1 18s 2d collected in Westray, and £2 5s 10d from Papa Westray. These are the only islands which seem to have taken any interest in this matter.
1888 February 1 Orkney Herald
SAILINGS FOR FEBRUARY
ROUSAY, EVIE AND RENDALL
STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY (LIMITED).
The steamship LIZZIE BURROUGHS, Built expressly for the Trade,
will Sail as follows, wind, weather and circumstances permitting:-
MONDAYS AND THURSDAYS
Leave Sourin at…..7.30am.
Calling at Egilshay, Trumland Pier, Weir, Hullion,
Evie, Tingwall, and Rendall point.
TUESDAYS AND FRIDAYS
Leave Kirkwall at…..10.30am.
For the above Places of Call.
Leave Trumland Pier at…..7.30am.
Calling at Hullion, Aikerness, Tingwall, and Rendall Point.
Leave Kirkwall same day at…..2.30am.
For the above Places of Call.
NOTE. – The Company reserve the power to call
at any special Port when necessary.
To and from Kirkwall and the different Places of Call:
CABIN…..1s 6d. DECK…..1s.
No Return Tickets Issued.
HEAVY GALES IN ORKNEY. – Since Friday morning last the Orkneys, and indeed the whole of the North of Scotland, have been visited by two of the heaviest gales of the season, although happily, so far as has been ascertained, there has been no loss of life or damage to shipping. This fortunate circumstance can only be accounted for by the fact that there was lacking that element of suddenness which in these seas is so prolific of disaster.
When daylight came on Friday morning, a strong northerly gale was blowing, accompanied by a heavy fall of snow, and about 9 o’clock the wind blew with the force of a hurricane, with frequent squalls of snow between. The weather having been threatening on the previous evening, none of the Kirkwall boats had proceeded to sea, so that there was awanting any cause for anxiety on that account…..
1888 March 28 Orkney Herald
THE WEATHER AND CROPS. – During the past week, owing to the inclement weather, the fishing in Orkney has been all but a blank. What little fish has been landed, realised somewhat better prices. Since Sunday, there has been a succession of squalls, accompanied with heavy snow, which has effectually prevented further operations. Yesterday the snow storm increased in intensity, and as a well-known farmer observed, “the yellow turnips were oot o’ sight.” In Kirkwall, a sea of slush formed the only walking ground for pedestrians. Of course all farming operations have been suspended, especially sowing, which had been commenced in some of the islands. When a change comes, farmers would require to be all the more active if they do not wish to lag behind.
ROUSAY – WASBISTER PUBLIC SCHOOL. – The annual concert given by the pupils of the above school, for the purpose of providing prizes, &c., was held on Friday evening last in the school. The weather turned out boisterous, but a large audience comfortably filled the building, many coming “over the hill” from Sourin. Mr Wm. Wilson, schoolmaster, Sourin, presided in a happy manner over a happy meeting. Apologies for absence were so numerous that it has been deemed advisable to repeat with additions thereto, the juvenile time of the programme, on Friday evening next; the object being to provide “Kinderspiel” music books, which will further develop the abilities of the children. The efforts of the “little ones” formed the attraction of the evening, and being supported by the senior singing class, and conducted by their schoolmaster, Mr Archibald Merrilees, they were awarded deserved encores throughout. Mrs Merrilees accompanied the musical items on the harmonium. The following selections were given by the children with appropriate gestures and distinct articulation: –
Wasbister Public School choir, aged 5 to 14 years, duet and chorus, “Good King Wenceslass” – King by James Logie, Pare by Robert Inkster; recitation “Boys’ Rights,” Hugh Craigie; glee, “Whistling Farmer Boy,” with whistling chorus, glee party; recitation, “The Young Astronomer,” David Kirkness; solo and chorus, “Mild May,” Mary Anne Inkster, soloist; recitation, “Casablanca,” David M. Leonard; solo and chorus, “Britannia,” Fred Kirkness, soloist; recitation, “Charge of the Light Brigade,” William M. Kirkness, P.T.; duet with chorus, “The Crookit Bawbee,” Isa Kirkness and James Logie, duettists; dialogue, ”Leff’s First Fiddle,” William M. Kirkness and Hugh Craigie; action song, “Merry Sailors,” descriptive of voyage, juvenile choir. These pieces were relieved by the following selections given by senior singing class – overture, “Norma,” Mr Archibald Merrilees, violin, and Mrs Merrilees. harmonium; “Te Deum,” senior choir; sacred solo, “Consider the Lilies,” William Wilson; solo and chorus, “Village Blacksmith,” Miss Craigie, Messrs Kirkness, Craigie, and Gibson, soloists; song – “Tom Bowling,” &c., George Gibson; reading, “Moral Umbrella,” William D. Gibson; choruses, “Scots Wha Hae,” and “Hail Smiling Morn,” choir; duet, ” Sixes and Sevens,” Mr and Mrs Archibald Merrilees; songs, “Village Blacksmith,” &c., Chairman; recitation, “Frenchman’s Dilemma,” Mr Archibald Merrilees.
Mr Fred B. Kirkness, in moving a vote of thanks to the performers, expressed the appreciation of the people of the admirable efforts of the children. The chairman having been thanked, the amount of the liberal silver collection announced, and the National Anthem sung, a harmonious meeting was closed, all being unanimous that they had never had such a treat before. As mentioned above, a public juvenile concert will be again given on Friday first, at 7pm. Admission free, with collection at the door.
1888 April 18 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – SCOTCH GIRLS’ FRIENDLY SOCIETY. – On Friday evening the periodical meeting of the Rousay Branch of the above society was held, by the invitation of Mrs Burroughs, the amiable associate of the branch, in Trumland House. About forty members came forward, many from a far distance. Through the courtesy of General Burroughs, they were hospitably entertained in his billiard-room and annexes. Mrs Burroughs presided, and suitably addressed the girls on “Economy,” with special reference to kindness, order, thrift, &c., basing her remarks on Prov. xxxi. Tea having been served, an entertainment of song, reading, and dialogue was given by Misses Low, Marwick, and Louttit. A letter was read from the School Board granting the use of the district schools for meetings, but only on the condition of a written guarantee to repair damage that may be caused by the girls’ meetings. The girls feel it no little indignation that such a stricture should be put upon their meeting together for such laudable and educational purposes as the rules of their society imply.
SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION. – The following are those nominated for election, which is to take place on the 25th curt: – Rev. Archibald McCallum, F.C. Manse; William Grieve, Falldown; Hugh Marwick, Goodall; James Gibson, Sketquoy; John Gibson, LangskaiII; .John Mainland, Ervadale; James Sinclair, Newhouse; William Learmonth, Faraclett. The first four are members of the present Board. One or two withdrawals are said to be imminent, but there is every prospect of a contest – five members being required.
1888 April 25 Orkney Herald
EMIGRATION. – Over one hundred emigrants have left Orkney during the last four weeks for Canada and the United States, and as many, or even more, will probably follow during the next few weeks. These emigrants have been mostly single men belonging to the artisan and farming classes, but a few domestic servants and some farmers with their families have also emigrated.
1888 May 2 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – SCHOOL BOARD. – The triennial election of the School Board for the parish of Rousay and Egilshay took place on Wednesday last. The polling station was Sourin Public School, the presiding officer being Mr James G. Craigie, assisted by Mr William Reid. There were seven candidates for five seats, and the following result was made known in the evening: –
*William Grieve (F.C.), crofter……….76
Rev. Archibald McCallum (F.C.)…….75
John Gibson (F.C.), crofter…………..65
*Hugh Marwick (U.P.), cottar…………49
William Learmonth (E.C.), farmer…..41
John Gibson (U.P.), farmer…………..40
James Sinclair (U.P.), proprietor……25
Those marked with an asterisk were members of the former Board, upon whose financial policy the election mainly turned.
MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT GUILD. – On Monday the Guild met in Wasbister Public School, the president, Mr George Gibson, in the chair. An interesting paper on “What’s in a name?” was read by Master Hugh Craigie. Mr Fred B. Kirkness was announced as the essayist for the next meeting.
1888 May 2 The Scotsman
DESIRABLE FARM IN ROUSAY (ORKNEY)
LANDS OF HULLION, ROUSAY
For Sale, by Private Bargain
(entry as may be arranged)
The FARM and LANDS of HULLION and others in the ISLAND of ROUSAY, ORKNEY, consisting of about 28 Acres Arable, together with the share (along with the adjoining Lands of Newhouse) of the Hill Common, extending to —– [illegible] Acres or thereby.
The Farm is in the natural occupation of the Owner, and is in good order. There are two good Dwelling-Houses of six rooms each, and a good Steading on the Lands; also a Merchant’s Shop. The Shop has suitable accommodation, and the Business is of long standing.
Annual Superior Duty (arranged for seven years), £2 5s. 5d. The Tiends are exhausted. Minister’s Stipend, £3 3s. 3d.
If not Sold by Private Bargain, the Lands will be Exposed to Public Sale (in whole or lots) on a Day to be afterwards Advertised.
For further particulars apply to Messrs HENRY & SCOTT, S.S.C., 30 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, or to the Subscribers, who have the Plan and Titles, and will receive offers.
HEDDLE & DREVER, Solicitors. KIRKWALL, 18th April 1888
1888 May 30 Orkney Herald
DEATHS. – Gibson – At Curquoy, Rousay, on the 25th inst., of a lingering illness, borne with Christian patience and resignation, Mary, beloved wife of James Gibson, farmer, Curquoy, aged 57 years.
1888 June 6 Orkney Herald
A HEAVY GALE from the south-east broke over the Orkneys on Tuesday of last week, and continued with force almost unabated till Thursday. A large number of fishing boats, principally from the east coast, put into Kirkwall, Stronsay, and Westray, and remained at one or other of these places till the end of the week…..
AN ADVENTUROUS EXCURSION. – On Tuesday two sporting expeditions started for the Stack and Skerry – one from Stromness early in the morning, and the other from Kirkwall, in the Merchant, towards evening. The Stromness boat succeeded in getting within sight of the Stack and Skerry before the gale came to its height, but soon after had to run for Loch Erriboll, Sutherlandshire, which was reached in safety. The Merchant (Capt. Cooper), which had on board Mr S. Reid, jun., and party, had a somewhat adventurous voyage. Passing through Westray Firth in the evening, with the gale still increasing, she ran to the westward until about ten or twelve miles off the Black Crag, Stromness. It was then considered, owing to the violence of the storm, expedient to put about with the idea, if possible, of gaining the shelter of the Orkney land, and lie to there until morning. An attempt was accordingly twice made to stay the vessel, but owing to the trim of her sails, on both occasions they were unsuccessful, so there was no alternative but to wear the ship. In doing so a tremendous blast struck her just as she was rounding to, tearing the mainsail from the bolt-ropes and splitting it in two. One of the party – Mr Barnett – who was assisting at the mainsheet at the time, was knocked into the lee scuppers and lay there insensible for a few minutes. After considerable difficulty the spent mainsail was stowed and a dandy-sail set; and under this rig the vessel wrought the weather until about 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning when she was off the coast of Rousay. About 7 o’clock it was found that the only course practicable was to endeavour to run up the Burgar Roost – a most dangerous tideway for a vessel in so crippled a condition to negotiate. However, with some difficulty the captain managed to take the Merchant through, and brought up in Aikerness Bay where she lay until Thursday morning. Another attempt was then made to proceed westward; but from the effects of the previous night’s storm the sea was found to be so high that, after running about eight or ten miles west of the Brough of Birsay the effort was abandoned, and it was decided to put about and run home. The anxiety of the friends of those on board ,was not relieved until the Merchant arrived in the harbour on Thursday evening.
1888 June 20 Orkney Herald
The seventy-ton sailing yacht Shiantelle (Macdonald, master) arrived in Kirkwall on Friday evening, and left yesterday morning for the North Isles. Mr Buckley, who is cruising in her on a scientific and pleasure errand, was on Monday the guest of General Burroughs at his place in Rousay. Mr Buckley intends visiting the North Isles for a week or two, returning South by way of Kirkwall.
1888 July 18 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – EDUCATIONAL. – Mr A. R. Andrew, H.M. Inspector of Schools, is visiting Rousay, and has examined Sourin Public School (Mr William Wilson, headmaster), where the deservedly high pass of 94 per cent was obtained. On Wednesday Wasbister Public School was inspected (Mr Hugh Merrilees, headmaster), after which it was intimated that the schedules return the most successful result of 98 per cent pass all over – there being no failures. Veira and Frotoft Public Schools are also being visited, and good results are likewise expected from the work of Miss Menmuir and Mr P. L. Muir respectively.
1888 July 25 Orkney Herald
In Orkney Sheriff Court yesterday, Sheriff Armour granted decree for arrears of rent against thirteen tenants and crofters on the Rousay estates of General Burroughs.
ROUSAY AND VEIRA CATTLE SHOW. – The fifteenth Cattle Show in connection with the Rousay and Veira Agricultural Society was held on Wednesday last on the farm of Banks, Sourin, and the day being all that could be desired, there was a good turnout both of cattle and spectators. The judges were Messrs Oliver Laughton, Soulisquoy; MacGregor, Warrenfield; and Sutherland, Quanterness, whose decisions gave the utmost satisfaction, and who awarded the prizes as follows:-
Purebred Bulls. – 1 (and medal), John Gibson, Langskaill; 2, William Seatter, Saviskaill; 3, George Stevenson, Scockness.
Cows. – 1. General Burroughs, Trumland; 2, George Murrison, Veira Lodge; 3, John Gibson, Langskaill.
Two-Year-Old Heifers. – 1, 2, and 3, General Burroughs; Second Class. – 1, Craigie Marwick, Breck; 2, John Gibson, Langskaill.
Two-Year-Old Steers. – General Burroughs, Avelshay.
One-Year-Old Heifers. – Medal, General Burroughs, Avelshay ; 1, William Seatter, Saviskaill: 2, Cragie Marwick. Breck; 3, William Mainland, Banks.
One-Year-Old Steers. – 1, William Learmonth, Faraclett; 2, John Gibson, Langskaill; 3, William Mainland, Banks.
Work Ox. – James Grieve, Stancroonie.
Mare and Foal. – 1, William Learmonth, Faraclett; 2, Hugh Sinclair, Swandale; 3, Robert Mainland, Banks, Frotoft.
Gold Mare. – 1, George Stevenson, Scockness; 2, Robert Gray, Hurtiso; 3, John Gibson, Sketquoy.
Two-Year-Old Colt. – 1, John Mainland, Ervadale ; 2, Frederick Kirkness, Quoyostray.
One-Year-Old Colt. – 1, William Corsie, Brendale; 2,General Burroughs, Trumland.
One-Year-Old Filly. – 1, John Gibson, Sketquoy; 2, Robert Gray, Hurtiso.
Ponies. – 1, Robert Learmonth, Faraclett; 2, G. M. McCrie, Curquoy.
Leicester Tup. – 1, John Gibson, Langskaill.
Chickens. – 1, Mrs Mainland, Banks, Frotoft; 2, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland House.
Cock. and Hen. – 1, Mrs Murrison, Veira Lodge; 2, Mrs Seatter, Saviskaill.
Ducklings. – 1, Mrs Murrison, Veira Lodge; 2, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland House.
Bantams (Cock and Hen). – Mrs Mainland, Banks, Frotoft.
Butter (Sweet). – Mrs Murrison, Veira Lodge; 2, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland House.
Butter (Salt). – 1. Mrs Murrison, Veira Lodge; 2, Mrs Burroughs, Trumland House.
After the show, the judges, committee, and a few friends sat down to an excellent dinner, when the usual loyal and patriotic toasts were given and responded to.
FARMS T0 LET ON THE ESTATE OF ROUSAY, ORKNEY
TO LET, for such number of years as may be agreed on,
with entry at Martinmas 1888.
1. The HOME FARM of TRUMLAND, ROUSAY (including the lands of Cutmoat), all as presently in the natural occupation of the Proprietor, extending to 180.632 acres or thereby of arable land and 1000 acres or thereby of Hill Pasture.
The Arable Land is in a high state of cultivation, having been all recently drained so far as required, and the greater part limed. The Sheep-run is all enclosed with a wire fence, and the ground is very suitable for a blackfaced sheep stock. The present stock is about 300. The Dwelling-House and Offices are in good order, and very commodious, the greater part of the Building being new. There is an excellent Thrashing Mill, with a plentiful supply of water.
2. The FARM of AVELSHAY, ROUSAY, likewise as presently in the natural occupation of the Proprietor, extending to 95.266 acres or thereby of Arable Land, 39.090 acres or thereby of Green Pasture, and 140 acres or thereby of Hill Pasture. The Green Pasture is nearly all capable of being brought under the plough, and almost the whole Farm is enclosed by a substantial stone fence.
The Dwelling-House is good and sufficient for the Farm. The Proprietor is prepared to improve the Steading to the requirements of the Farm. The lands of Cutmoat can be let along with Avelshay, instead of with Trumland, if desired.
Further particulars may be obtained upon application to GEORGE MURRISON,
Veira Lodge, Rousay, Factor upon the estate;
or to JOHN MACRAE S.S.C., Kirkwall.
Mr MURRISON will give directions for showing the Farms to intending Offerers,
and Offers will be received by Mr MACRAE on or before 31st August 1888.
The highest or any Offer may not be accepted.
1888 August 1 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY AND VEIRA CATTLE SHOW. – Mr William Learmonth, secretary of the society, writes to say that Mr McCrie’s pony stallion which appeared in the prize-list as having taken second place, was not intended for exhibition. It was judged by mistake in consequence of having been found among the show animals.
1888 August 1 Orkney Herald
THE ROUSAY MANSE CASE. – SHERIFF ARMOUR yesterday issued the following interlocutor in the action between the Rev. Alexander Spark, minister of Rousay, and the heritors of the parish, in connection with the repairs to be made on the manse. The matter had been remitted to Mr T. S. Peace to report as to what repairs were necessary, and to prepare plans and specifications thereof. To his report various objections were taken, which, with one exception, are now repelled and the heritors ordained to carry out the repairs specified: –
KIRKWALL, 31st July, 1888. – The Sheriff-Substitute having heard parties’ procurators, and considered the objections and the whole process, sustains the objection by the Reverend Alexander Spark that the water main should have a gun-metal stop-cock – to the extent of allowing a gun-metal stop-cock on the lead pipe at its junction, with the cast iron pipe in place of the cast iron stop-cock mentioned in the specification; quoad ultra repels the whole of the objections under reference to the annexed note, and approves of the specifications; ordains the heritors to execute the repairs, alterations, and additions in terms of said specifications; remits to Mr Thomas Smith Peace, architect, Kirkwall, to receive tenders for the execution of said plans and specifications, to accept such tenders as shall seem best, and to superintend their execution; meantime reserves the question of expenses. (Signed) S. B. ARMOUR.
Note. – The pursuers, besides certain trifling detailed objections to be referred to, immediately object to the plans, specifications, and reports on the wider ground that “any manse, steading, and offices that may be erected in accordance therewith would be too expensive and disproportionate to the rental of the united parishes of Rousay and Egilshay.” The gross rental of the united parishes, I understand, is only £3811 1s 8d; and the operations proposed, it is estimated, will cost in round numbers £600, or nearly one-sixth of the gross rental, so that the heritors perhaps naturally complain that it is inequitable to impose so serious a burden upon them. It appears to me, however, that I am precluded from considering any general objection of this sort owing to the procedure that has already taken place. On 19th July 1887 Mr Peace, to whom a remit had been made, lodged his report and plans, and on 2nd August 1888, an interlocutor was pronounced approving of them. That interlocutor was appealed to the Lord Ordinary on teind causes, who, on 1st November 1887, pronounced an interlocutor in these terms – “Recalls the interlocutor appealed against, in so far as it ordains the heritors forthwith to carry out the operations set forth in the report in accordance with the specifications therein mentioned. Quoad ultra dismisses the appeal, and remits to the Sheriff to proceed as shall be just.” It does not appear whether advantage was taken of the appeal to object to the report and plans upon the ground now stated. If so, then the objection must have been repelled, for the interlocutor of the Sheriff-Substitute was only recalled to the limited extant just quoted: so far as it approved of the report and it is still operative. In these circumstances it is of course not competent for me to review it. The general question as to the scale upon which repairs, &c., were to be allowed was settled by the report and plans being approved of, and therefore I am precluded from reconsidering it at this stage. It is right to point out that a new plan has been substituted for the plan relating to the alterations on the steading. It only involves an additional expenditure of £10 however, and I understand that the heritors acquiesce in the substitution. It remains to consider the detailed objections to the specifications. The pursuers object firstly to the drain proposed to be cut from the cesspool to the Shore on the ground that it is unnecessary, and that the contents of the cesspool should be used for agricultural purposes. The drain is only a tile drain, and will cost about £4. The value of the contents of the cesspool for agricultural purposes would be very trifling, and if placed upon the land so near the manse would probably be a nuisance. I have therefore repelled this objection. The second objection is that the pursuers are not bound to provide a boiler in the scullery. But as houses of a certain class are finished at the present day a scullery would be incomplete without a boiler, which is, of course, a fixture supplied by the landlord, and this objection is also repelled. The cost of a boiler is about £2 2s. The third objection is that zinc sash chains are too expensive, and that rope ones should be substituted. It appears that in the somewhat damp climate of Orkney ropes last a very short time, and that since the zinc chains were introduced, nothing else had been used. The difference in cost amounts to only 2s. a window. The objection has been repelled. The fourth and last objection is that the sum of £8 10s., proposed to be provided for chimney-pieces to the dining and drawing-rooms, is exorbitant and unreasonable. I am informed that this sum represents the lowest price at which marble chimney-pieces can be got, so that the only alternative would be painted wood or iron. Looking to the principles which have been laid down, and the repairs and alterations which have been sanctioned in the more recent cases, I do not feel justified in holding that the proposal here is exorbitant or unreasonable, and the objection has therefore been repelled. Apart from the above objections, the heritors intimate their acquiescence in the plans, specifications, and reports.
Objections have also been lodged by the Reverend Alexander Spark as regards (1) the Manse; (2) the garden; (3) the steading.
1. The Manse: – The only objection sustained is No. 10, that the water-main should have a gun-metal stop-cock as that proposed would soon become unworkable from rust. On the suggestion of the reporter, I have authorised the suggestion mentioned in the foregoing interlocutor. There will be no additional cost, for the lead pipe is considerably smaller in diameter than the cast-iron pipe upon which it was originally proposed to place the stop-cock. Objections 1 to 9, which relate more or less to alleged structural defects in the present building, are repelled on the simple ground that the reports, plans, and specifications obviate the defects complained of, so far as is reasonable and possible, taking all the circumstances into consideration. Objection 11, to the effect that the bedroom accommodation is insufficient, and that at least two additional bedrooms should be provided is repelled on two grounds. First, that to sustain it would involve a substantial interference with the plan, which was approved of on 2d August 1887, and from that I am precluded as already explained. Further, even were it open for me to decide the question I should have little hesitation in holding that the accommodation provided is reasonable and sufficient. If the room downstairs be used as a bedroom – for it is too good a room for a laundry – that would give four excellent bedrooms, besides two good attic-rooms. To hold that the heritors are bound to provide two additional bedrooms would, it appears to me, be pushing their legal liability too far, considering the proportion which the repairs and additions already bears to the gross rental, the amount of the stipend (£97 9s 2d), and all the circumstances connected with the parish. Objection 12, that the W.C. should not be placed over the larder, is repelled after consultation with the reporter. Keeping in view that the drain pipe is entirely outside the house, there does not appear to be any substance in the objection. Similarly objection 13 is repelled. The chimney stalk at the back of the manse is required for the scullery boiler, and it could only be removed at great expense.
2. The Garden Wall. An objection is taken that “the defender is entitled to have his garden enclosed with a wall built of ……” Looking to the provision in the specification for repairing and re-building the garden wall, it is probably sufficient to say that this objection is unintelligible.
3. The Steading. The objections under this head are (1) that byre accommodation for at least two more cattle should be provided; and (2) a dwelling-house for a man in connection with the steading. Looking to the terms of the interlocutor of 23rd April 1887, by which a remit was made to a man of skill to report inter alia what repairs were necessary to furnish “a suitable and sufficient steading for the proper working of the glebe to the extent of four acres of arable land;” and considering that accommodation is provided for six cattle, it appears to me that the defender has been generously dealt with, and I would not be justified in sustaining the objection, Still less would I be justified in ordaining the heritors to build a dwelling-house for a man in connection with the steading. No authority was quoted for such a demand, and I am not aware of any legal ground upon which it can be made. The defender offers to take over the barn as it at present exists, and at his own expense adapt it to this purpose. Such an offer, however, I have no power to compel the heritors to accept even if I were disposed to do so, which I am not, as I am assured that the barn is not structurally sufficient, and could not be made so. Another consideration is, that were it converted into a dwelling-house the heritors would require to repair and maintain it in time to come. In conclusion, it is proper to state that, before dealing with the foregoing objections, I had the advantage of inspecting the premises personally along with the reporter, with whom I consulted as to each individual item. – (Intd.) S. B. A. – Agent for Mr Spark, Mr Thomson; for the heritors, Mr Macrae.
1888 August 15 Orkney Herald
The lands of Hullion, Rousay, the sale of which was fixed for to-day (Wednesday), have been disposed of by private bargain, and the advertisement is consequently withdrawn.
1888 August 17 Peterhead Sentinel
The Reverend Alexander Spark, erstwhile minister of Boddam, has been little heard of since he immured himself in the lonely solitude of Rousay; but it may interest his many friends and acquaintances in this quarter to hear that he is conducting a lively and interesting litigation with his heritors in regard the condition of his manse. It was at one time in the Court of Session; but latterly it has been under the cognizance of the Sheriff-Substitute of Orkney, who has just issued a most elaborate and lengthy decision. His lordship sustains the claim of Mr Spark that his water-main should have a gun-metal stop-cock, but he refuses a whole lot of other claims by Mr Spark, who has apparently been demanding bed-room accommodation for two more people and byre accommodation for two more cattle, and sundry other luxuries. Still, Mr Spark, I gather from the interlocutor, has made good his title to “zinc sash chains” for his windows (the heritors wanted to put him off with ropes) and white marble chimney-pieces in his dining and drawing room; and he has triumphantly vindicated the claim of a parish minister be provided with a boiler in his scullery at the expense of the heritors. Altogether Mr Spark is to have his manse repaired and altered to an extent involving a cost of £600, which is nearly a sixth of the gross rental of his parish. And I suppose after all a minister perhaps preaches none the worse because he has been fighting with the heritors over gun-metal stop-cocks and zinc sash chains.
1888 August 29 Orkney Herald
In the Orkney Sheriff Court yesterday – the Hon. Sheriff-substitute Irvine on the bench – several Small Debt summonses were disposed of, and decrees for arrears of rent were obtained against two of General Burroughs’ tenants.
1888 September 5 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – ANNUAL REGATTA. – This yearly event came off on Wednesday last, in Veira Sound – Trumland Pier being the starting and winning post. The energetic committee were early on the spot to measure the boats and conclude arrangements. Favourable weather and the interesting occasion drew out a great crowd of spectators. General Burroughs, C.B., the hon. commodore, was accompanied by his lady; Mr A. G. Cameron, Burgar House, hon. vice-commodore; Colonel Scott, Miss Scott; Mr Alex. Henderson, Caithness; Mr D. Henderson, Miss Henderson; Captain Cheape. Mr A. Merrilees, vice-commodore, kept the time, and judged the handicaps; Mr A. Munro fired the gun; and Mr P. L. Muir acted as secretary and treasurer…..Miss Scott gracefully presented the prizes, addressing a kind word to each of the winners. Three cheers were given to the lady visitors, subscribers, committee, and strangers. The Treasurer desires to acknowledge the handsome donations of the Trumland House party and other friends.
1888 September 21 Glasgow Herald
CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY.
GENERAL BURROUGHS’S TENANTRY.
(From our Special Correspondent.)
Kirkwall, Thursday Night.
The Commission held a sitting in the Kirkwall Court-house to-day to hear evidence from the island Rousay, the property of General Burroughs. There has been more disturbance on this property than on any in Orkney, and the Royal Commission in 1883 considered this one of the few places where rack-renting existed. The witnesses crossed from Rousay to Kirkwall in their own boats to be present at the sitting.
Mr ROBERTSON, solicitor, Kirkwall, appearing for General Burroughs, made a brief preliminary statement about the property. He said an arrangement had been come to by which the proprietor should pay the whole poor rates and the tenants the whole road rates. It was said that this had been an advantage to the proprietor, but that was not the case, for up till 1884 he had paid £591 over what the half of both rates would have been. He had erected a pier at a cost of £620, and charged no dues. The evidence was then proceeded with, and in nearly every case the most remarkable feature was the extraordinary rises of rent.
In the first case the witness said that prior to 1852 his rent was £6. It had then been raised to £9; in 1871 to £11; and in l879 to £15. No land had been added during that time, but he had been deprived of the right of grazing on Kierfea Hill.
In the second case the applicant said he had succeeded to the croft in 1882 at a rent of £4, and it was still the same. He had been along with his father before that, but he did not know when his father had paid rent last.
Mr ROBERTSON explained that the applicant’s father had sat from 1864 to 1881 without paying any rent.
Mr THOMSON said he could not pass over that statement. There was something behind it which the Commission should know. The applicant had told him that there had been an arrangement made with the factor by which he (the witness) got the croft for nothing, on condition that he should keep his father and mother from being paupers, An arrangement had been made as already explained by which General Burroughs paid the whole poor rates, and the tenants the whole road rates. There was, therefore, a bit of policy in this arrangement apparently for the benefit of the applicant. As long as they had the croft Colonel Burroughs had not to pay them an allowance as paupers. It was not a bad move at all. (Laughter.)
The CHAIRMAN (to witness) – You prevented your father and mother from becoming paupers? – A. Yes, my Lord, at that time.
And thereby saved General Burroughs paying rates for your father and mother? – A. Yes, my Lord.
In another case during the day Mr THOMSON said there had been a similar giving of poor-rates. The tenant was an old widow, who had been sitting rent free for some years. She had been left with a young family, and had brought them up with her own work. She had got no parochial assistance.
In most of the other cases the rises of rent were the only remarkable point. There had been a general raising of the rent in 1859, 1872, and 1879, with the result that rents were more than doubled during the time. No change had been made in the holdings except the reclamations effected by the tenants themselves. In every case the witnesses complained of the loss of grazing as well as the rise of rent.
The CHAIRMAN asked one man if rents never came down in Rousay, and he replied that they always went up.
One case which gave rise to a good deal of discussion, and brought out more than ordinary interest, was that of an applicant who said he had succeeded to a tenant, James Leonard, four years ago.
Mr THOMSON drew the attention of the Commissioners to the evidence given by this James Leonard before Lord Napier’s Commission.
Mr ROBERTSON objected that it was quite irrelevant to the present case, but the Chairman allowed the matter to be gone into.
Mr THOMSON pointed out that Lord Napier had asked General Burroughs to give his word that Leonard would not be disturbed for giving his evidence. This General Burroughs had declined to do, and he accordingly evicted him immediately after having built a new house.
Mr ROBERTSON – He got compensation.
Mr THOMSON – That is denied.
The witness, being examined by the CHAIRMAN, said that James Leonard was his brother-in-law, and had preceded him in the holding. He had given evidence before Lord Napier’s Commission, and after he gave the evidence he was put out of the croft.
The CHAIRMAN took up the report of the Royal Commission, and quoted at some length from General Burroughs’ statement, in which he justified himself for turning out a man who would be troublesome on the property.
Mr ROBERTSON said that General Burroughs never acknowledged Leonard as his tenant, but Leonard’s father.
Mr THOMSON said he would accept that, as in that case the present applicant, as son-in-law could claim the house he had entered, and for which his brother-in-law, Leonard, had got no compensation.
When all the cases called for to-day were disposed of, Mr THOMSON drew the attention of the Commissioners to the fact that the rental of Rousay in 1854 was £1289, while according to the statement made by Mr Robertson to-day it was now £3184. This meant a rise of about 200 per cent. since 1854.
The CHAIRMAN said that somebody’s rents must have got up.
The remainder of the Rousay cases will be heard to-morrow.
1888 September 22 Glasgow Herald
CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY.
GENERAL BURROUGHS’S TENANTRY.
(From our Special Correspondent.)
Kirkwall, Friday Night.
The Commissioners held another sitting here today to consider applications from the island of Rousay, the property of General Burroughs. Mr Robertson, solicitor, Kirkwall, again appeared for General Burroughs and Mr Thomson, solicitor, Kirkwall, for the crofters. As on the previous day, the most remarkable feature of the inquiry was the systematic rises of rent on the tenants’ own improvements.
The first crofter examined had only occupied his place for 14 years, and in 1878 the rent had been raised from £1 to £3. He got no additional land for that, but had since been deprived of hill grazing, which had been added to a farm.
In the second case, which was that of an older tenant, the rent had been raised from 10s to £3 10s in 1867, to £4 in 1872, and to £6 in 1879. As in the other case, no land had been added, but hill pasture had been taken away.
Another witness said he had been a sub-tenant on a farm till 1860 at a rent of £3, when the proprietor took him over, and his rent made a sudden jump to £10. He got no more land for that.
The CHAIRMAN – You just had the privilege of paying £10. (Laughter.)
Witness said the rent had again been raised to £12 in 1878, and no change made in the croft. He had spent £200 on the croft himself, and had no money left now.
In most of the cases there were heavy sums of arrears due, and in a good many decrees for arrears had been obtained before the passing of the Amendment Act.
The CHAIRMAN remarked that the Commissioners had not been on an estate where so many actions for rent had been raised.
Some general evidence as to the destruction by game was led by Mr THOMSON from George Reid, crofter, who appeared for his father. Before coming to this evidence, and while giving in detail the improvements made on the holding, Reid explained that he had written to General Burroughs saying that he was going to apply to the Commission, and asking for information about some drainage done. He received a reply from the factor, instructed by General Burroughs, to the effect that the proprietor would furnish the Commission with information, and it was unreasonable of him to expect that the proprietor would assist him with information to be used in a claim against himself. Both the letters were produced, and….
The CHAIRMAN, having read them, said – I think it right to say that there was nothing unreasonable. lt is a very respectful letter, and why the estate should refuse to give the information I do not see.
In continued examination, the witness said his father’s rent had been raised from £9 to £10 in 1867, and one acre arable and three acres outrun taken away in 1872 without any change on the croft, and in 1879 it was raised from £15 to £25, with 16½ acres of hill ground added. Having made the calculation, the CHAIRMAN said – That is 14s 9d, an acre for hill; it seems pretty smart. (Laughter.)
Concerning the question of game, the witness said the hares and grouse were preserved in Rousay, and that great damage was done to turnips by the hares, and to corn stooks by the grouse.
The CHAIRMAN – Does the Ground Game Act not extend to Rousay? – Yes; but it is practically of no use.
How? – Because before the Crofters Act passed if a tenant was known to keep a gun he might look out at the term.
And the same good old feeling still prevails. Have you got a gun now? – No; not for 20 years.
Is the landlord a strict game preserver? – We think that anyhow.
Mr THOMSON – Is it notorious that there is more game in Rousay than anywhere else in Orkney?
Over twenty cases were disposed of, which concluded the evidence from Rousay.
Mr ROBERTSON then read a statement which had been prepared by Colonel Burroughs to be submitted to the Commission. Before reading it, he briefly alluded to an insinuation made once or twice that when tenants sat rent free it was to the advantage of the proprietor, as he had undertaken to pay all the poor-rates. He would meet that insinuation with a statement he had previously made, that the proprietor lost over £570 up till 1884 by this arrangement.
Mr ROBERTSON then read General Burroughs’s statement, which was of great length, and showed with considerable detail the improvement on the state of Orkney in general, and the island of Rousay in particular, since the year 1840. Since purchasing he had expended £40,000 on it, the circumstances of the people had improved very much, and he did not believe the statements that were made about their poverty. He instanced the number of ministers and schoolmasters now in the island.
The CHAIRMAN asked if General Burroughs meant to suggest that the spiritual and educational provision was excessive? (Laughter.)
Mr ROBERTSON said it was just to show the advance in all respects. The statement gave with great detail the many advantages which the Rousay tenants enjoyed, and concluded with the expression of General Burroughs’s belief that it was outside agitators that had spread the feeling of discontent among his tenants.
Mr THOMSON replied that the statement was exactly on the lines and breathing the spirit he would have expected from the source it came. It was in harmony with General Burroughs’s general actions. As regarded the question of poor-rates, he would not accept Mr Robertson’s statement. Whatever it might be in general, he would maintain that the particular case he had brought forward was clearly a case of finessing on the part of General Burroughs to get rid of paying poor-rates by giving a woman her croft free, and getting her son to keep her. lt had been stated that £40,000 had been expended by General Burroughs on the estate, but before accepting that he would require to get the statement detailed, as a large portion of that had been spent on General Burroughs’s residence, on steadings for big farms, and on enclosing hills to keep out the crofters. (Laughter.) With regard to the statement that there were four ministers to 1100 souls, Mr Thomson remarked that it should be known that the number of souls in Rousay had decreased from 1263 to 1118 in General Burroughs’s time, which showed that he had made Rousay rather hot for them. (Laughter.) As to the manner in which General Burroughs had treated his tenants, the evidence led before the Court would show that the rents of crofts had been quadrupled during his time. The numerous actions which he had raised against his tenants clearly indicated the manner in which he dealt with them. Mr Thomson was glad to say that this was the only estate in Orkney where such harshness had been dealt out to crofters.
The final sitting in Orkney will be held to-morrow.
1888 September 26 Orkney Herald
ROUSAY – WASBISTER PUBLIC SCHOOL. – The annual distribution of prizes in connection with this school took place on Tuesday last week. The Rev. Archibald McCallum, chairman of the School Board, presided; and Miss McCallum gracefully handed over the various awards to the winners. Amongst the gathering of spectators were – Mr John Gibson, Sketquoy, member of the School Board for Wasbister; Mr and Mrs William Marwick, Mrs John Gibson, Langskaill; Mrs John Logie, Mrs William Inkster, Miss Kirkness, Quoys; Messrs Hugh Inkster, R. G. Gordon, &c. The following kinderspeil programme was performed by the pupils conducted by their schoolmaster, Mr Archibald Merrilees – Mrs Merrilees being harmonium accompanist: –
Musical drill chorus, “Exercise.” Duet and chorus, “Good King Wenceslas” – James Logie, “King;” Robert Inkster, “Page.” Action song, with whistling chorus, “Whistling Farmer Boy.” Action duet and chorus, “Crookit Bawbee,” James Kirkness and James Logie. Descriptive chorus, “Merry Sailors’ Voyage.”
The chairman, in well chosen words, congratulated teachers and taught upon their intelligent acting, and said that the excellence of H. M. Inspector’s report was fully deserved. Appended is the prize list: –
Orkney and Zetland Association’s prizes, gained by public competition – 1, David M. Leonard; 2, Mary E. Kirkness; 3, James Logie; Hugh Craigie. Individual attendance prizes, gifted by the School Board – Alexina Craigie, Jemima Craigie, and William Craigie – all 100 per cent. Family attendance prize, provided by funds raised by concerts given by the pupils, conducted by the schoolmaster – 1, Hugh Craigie, 99 per cent; 2, Alfred Gibson, 98 per cent; 3, David M. Leonard, 96 per cent; 4, Mary Jessie Inkster, 95 per cent; 5, Hugh Gibson, 94 per cent; 6, Mary Ann Inkster, 93 per cent; 7, Isabella Kirkness, 91 per cent; Maggie Ann Kirkness, Jemima Craigie, and Alexina Craigie, 90 per cent. Ninety-one per cent and over received a Post Office Savings Bank deposit as share of value of medal, the others getting books. Certificates of merit were awarded to those who passed their respective standards before H. M. Inspector – all pupils presented having passed. Book prizes were given for intelligent progress to deserving pupils – attendance and punctuality being considered – James Inkster, John Marwick, Elizabeth Marwick, Alexina Craigie, and Maggie Gibson. All the infants were similarly encouraged. Good conduct prizes were voted by the scholars to the following: – 1, Margaret Jessie Louttit; 2, John Logie; 3, James Logie; 4, Isabella Kirkness and Mary Annie Kirkness, equal.
SCHOOL REPORT. – H. M. Inspector has issued the following report on Wasbister Public School: –
Under Mr Archibald Merrilees’ rigorous and intelligent teaching, this school is doing capital work. An excellent appearance has been made in the elementary subjects, the work being accurate, intelligent in quality, and neat in execution. In the class subjects of English, recitation of poetry has decidedly improved since last year. Grammar also showed sound grasp. Very good work had been done in geography and history. A beginning has been made at teaching elementary science. The teacher had aimed at doing too much, but on the whole a fair appearance was made. If the subject is to be continued, more illustrative diagrams and apparatus must be provided. Needlework (Sch. III) was professed as a class subject, with good results. The training of the lower classes was thoroughly efficient. Singing was exceptionally good. Excellent discipline and class drill. W. M. Kirkness has passed fairly.
1888 September 26 Orkney Herald
THE CROFTERS COMMISSION IN KIRKWALL.
The Crofters Commissioners resumed their sittings at Kirkwall last Wednesday, when the remainder of the cases from the Graemshall estate, and applications from Kirkwall and St Ola, were taken up. Thursday and Friday were occupied with the cases from the estate of General Burroughs of Rousay.
The Commissioners – Messrs Brand and Hosack – resumed consideration of the applications from the Rousay estate. The attendance was large, and the liveliest interest seemed to be manifested in the proceedings, the outstanding feature of which was the number of actions against the crofters that were brought to light, and decrees for arrests obtained against them. In regard to those which were obtained prior to the passing of the Act, Mr Brand more than once pointed out that they could not be considered as arrears. Mr Robertson appeared for General Burroughs.
The first case taken up was the continued application of Simpson Skethaway, Knarston, for fair rent. On the previous day the applicant had been objected to by Mr Robertson on the ground that he was a joint-tenant of the holding with John Gibson at a rent of £60, while on the other hand Mr Thomson contended that it was a separate tenancy; that in fact, each held a half, and paid separate rents and taxes. He now produced the rent receipts from 1876 to 1888 bearing out this assertion, while Mr Robertson handed in a lease showing joint-tenancy entered into between Gibson and S. Skethaway’s father-in-law, James Craigie, which expired in 1862.
The witness Skethaway (recalled) deposed that he had a separate dwelling-house and steading. He had executed repairs on his steading, which be paid for himself. Mr Gibson did not contribute.
Mr BRAND – You have your own bank account, I suppose? (Laughter.)
Witness – Yes, my lord.
In further examination, witness said he had been 29 years on the holding. At that time Gibson’s father was tenant of one-half. Witness’s father-in-law had the other half, and they paid separate rents. Witness was £30 in arrears. The stock was 3 cows, 3 one-year-olds, 2 calves, 2 ewes, 1 lamb, and 2 horses. Had broken in 15½ acres.
By Mr ROBERTSON – He and Mr Gibson divided the crop on the field. Their cattle pastured together.
By the COURT – They had separate teams of horses, and separate harness and carts; but they had not separate land. His rent was £30, and that was all for which he considered himself liable. He would not consider himself liable for Gibson’s rent in the event of his being unable to pay it. Sometimes Gibson had paid his rent when witness was not ready to pay. When witness was behind General Burroughs had never asked Gibson to pay for him.
Mr ROBERTSON here produced a lease dated 1854 for 9 years between General Burroughs and Gibson and John Craigie (witness’s father-in-law) showing that there was a joint tenancy at that time.
John Gibson, the other tenant on Knarston, was next examined. He had 30 acres 1 rood 24 poles arable. He had occupied for 32 years past his present house and steading. In the other house James Craigie (father-in-law of Skethaway) was living. He cultivated the land along with him the same as he did with Skethaway. He had broken in 15½ acres. His stock was 3 cows, 4 one-year-olds, 3 calves, 4 sheep, 2 horses, and a foal.
By the COURT – These were different animals from those enumerated by Skethaway. Each bought and sold his own stock, and bore his profits and losses separately.
Examination resumed – Had built 2 byres, a stable, and potato house at his own expense.
By Mr ROBERTSON – In Craigie’s time each paid his own half of the rent. General Burroughs had never asked him for Skethaway’s arrears.
Shown a letter bearing to be signed by himself and Skethaway, in which the joint tenancy was accepted by them, witness denied that the signature was his. He did not authorise anyone to sign it for him.
Simpson Skethaway (recalled) admitted that the signature on the same letter was his. At the time he signed it Gibson was at Stronsay for the fishing.
Gibson (recalled) said he had never seen the letter till that day.
Mr ROBERTSON said that beyond the fact that Mr Murrison received the latter he could say nothing as to the signature.
Mr BRAND said Mr Robertson would require to prove something more than he had done. His case was not proved on the evidence as it stood.
James Grieve, Stancrownie, Sourin, had 4½ acres arable and 4½ outrun. The stock he had was 1 cow, 1 work ox, and 2 sheep. The rent was £3; arrears, £7. Had occupied it 14 years, and broken in 2½ acres. Had spent £20 on buildings. He put in 30 chains of couple stone drains, and 15 chains of ditch. The only contribution he had from the landlord was wood. His rent was raised in 1878 from £1 3s to its present figure, and Knitchin hill was taken away.
By Mr ROBERTSON – All the improvements were done under the lease produced.
Alex. Leonard, Gripps, was represented by his son Malcolm (47), who deposed that the croft measured 12 acres arable and 1 acre outrun. The stock was 1 entire horse and 1 ewe. The rent was £6; arrears, £22. His father had been 53 years in the holding, and had broken in the whole of it, the last of it being finished about a year ago. He had put in 50 chains of drains and 16 chains of ditch. The rent was raised in 1857 from 10s to £3 10s; in 1878 to £4; in 1879 to £6, no land being added.
By Mr ROBERTSON – Two years ago he sold turnips and straw off the place. He had sold 2 pigs this year. The landlord allowed his father an abatement of a third of the rent for seven years £8 3s 4d.
Mr BRAND – The £8 3s 4d is judiciously spread over a good many years.
Robert Grieve, Whitehall, was represented by his son William, who said they had 7¾ acres arable and 6¾ acres outrun. His stock was 1 cow, 1 work ox, 1 ewe, and 1 lamb. The rent was £5; arrears, £9 10s. His father had occupied the place for 25 years and broken in 6¾ acres. Had spent £50 on houses, besides making ditches, drains, &c. The rent was raised in 1872 from £3 to £3 10s, and in 1879 to £5
James Mainland, Gorehouse (69), deposed he had 15 acres 2 roods 13 poles arable, and 12 acres 31 poles outrun. He had 2 cows, 1 calf, 1 stirk, and 1 horse. The rent was £12; arrears, £15. He had been in occupation 38 years, and reclaimed 13 acres. There were only 2 acres under the plough when he went there. There was a small house on the holding, but he was never in it. Had spent £80 on buildings. He put in 30 chains of drains, for which the proprietor had not paid him. He was allowed one-third of his rent off by Mr Scarth for drains and ditches. His rent was £3, and took a sudden jump to £10 in 1860; in 1878 it rose to £12 – no change in the croft.
James Marwick. Gripps, was the next applicant on the list, but Mr Mackenzie, the secretary to the Commission, stated that the man had gone to America.
Mr THOMSON, in withdrawing the application, said that before going, Marwick had squared up with the proprietor.
John Craigie, Lower Gripps, deposed that he had 6 acres 3 poles arable; 4 acres 24 poles outrun. He had 1 cow, 1 calf, 1 ewe. The rent was £4; arrears, £6. For 31 years he had been in the place, and his father 26 years before him. He had reclaimed 4 acres. His father and he had put up all the buildings. The total reclamation was 2 acres 2 roods. His rent was raised in l857 from 12s 6d to £3; in 1872 to £3 13s; and in 1879 to £4. His common grazing was taken away in 1874, and he had now none.
By Mr ROBERTSON – He had sold a ewe and a lamb this year. He kept hens. (A laugh.)
Mr ROBERTSON – It may be taken for granted, my lord, that all the applicants have hens.
Mr BRAND – It may be taken for granted that this man has. (Laughter.)
James Cooper, Pretty, had 8 acres arable, and 5 acres 2 roods outrun. He had 1 horse, 1 cow, and 4 sheep. The rent was £5 5s; arrears £18 17s. Witness had been there 5 years. His grandfather settled on the bare hill. They put up all the buildings, and reclaimed all the land. In 1857 the rent was raised to £3; then to £4 10s; and finally to the present sum.
By Mr ROBERTSON – When his mother died in 1882 the arrears were wiped out. He did not know the amount.
Mr BRAND – Then we will take the statement from you, Mr Robertson.
Mr ROBERTSON – The arrears forgiven her were £19 5s, and so he started fair.
Mr BRAND (to witness) – You are 3½ years in arrears now. It is not that you have not paid a fair rent, but that you have not paid any rent at all.
George Reid, (81), Wasdale, was represented by his son, William, who said the croft comprised 22 acres 7 roods 7 poles arable, and 33 acres 3 poles outrun. The stock was 3 cows, 2 stirks, 3 calves, 2 sheep, 1 lamb, 2 horses, and a foal. The rent was £25; arrears reduced to £12.
Mr BRAND observed that a tenant occupied a very much better position who paid his arrears as well as he could. That had been done in the present case.
Witness (resuming), said his father had occupied the place 39 years, reclaimed 14½ acres, and put up buildings at a cost of £85. His father’s rent was raised in 1857 from £9 to £10; and 1 acre arable and 3 outrun taken off. In 1872 it was further raised to £15; in 1879 to £25, and 16½ acres of hill added.
Mr BRAND – 14s 9d an acre for hill! It sounds pretty smart. (A laugh.)
By Mr THOMSON – Hares and grouse were preserved in Rousay, and the turnips on the greater part of the holdings were very much cut by the hares.
Mr BRAND – Does the Ground Game Act not extend to Orkney?
Witness replied that it was practically of no use. It used to be it they had a gun and destroyed them, they would have to look out at the term.
Mr BRAND – The same good old feeling still prevails. (Laughter)
Witness said it was 20 years since he kept a gun.
Mr BRAND – Is the landlord a strict game preserver?
Mr THOMSON – It is notorious that there is more game in Rousay than anywhere else in Orkney.
Examination resumed – Is the place subject to grub? – Yes.
Is finger-and-toe very common? – Very common, and I suppose General Burroughs himself has a good share of it. (Laughter.)
Mr ROBERTSON – Have the people taken advantage of that Act to kill off the hares? – I could not say.
Mr ROBERTSON remarked that since the Ground Game Act passed the shepherd’s wages was lowered in respect of the facilities it gave them for extra money.
Mr BRAND observed that the estate conditions and regulations reserved to the proprietor the whole game, with full power and liberty to hunt, shoot, and course without compensation to the tenant for trespass except in cases of damage done by excessive preservation to the growing crops.
By the COURT – Are there a great number of grouse on the island? – I have seen a hundred together at a time on our stooks.
Mr BRAND – They must be very fond of your stooks, but I suppose they go from one place to another.
Mr ROBERTSON having produced a lease in this case,
David Flaws, Hammerfield, was called. He said his croft was 14 acres arable, and 2 acres outrun in extent. He had 2 cows, 1 one-year-old, 1 calf, 1 ewe and a lamb, and 1 horse. The rent was £7. He had occupied the place for 5 years; broken in 12 acres (he and his father and grandfather) and spent £30 on the buildings. He had put in 200 chains over and above what was paid for by the proprietor. The rises in rent were from £3 to £5 in 1854; in 1863 to £5 15s; and in 1872 to £7.
By Mr ROBERTSON – All that he had sold this year was a one-year-old and a calf, and some young pigs.
Alex. Corsie (70) Cruisdy, Frotoft, had 3 acres 3 roods 15 poles arable; outrun, 7 acres 3 roods 37 poles. The rent was £5; arrears, £7 10s. He had occupied the croft 36 years; his mother had is 30 years before him. Had broken in 2½ acres, and put up all the buildings at a cost of £35. He had trenched fully a quarter of an acre. The rent was raised in 1872 from £2 to £5. He got another croft added in at the time called Upper Cruisdy. He lost the right of grazing on some of the commons in 1880. He had to buy “crop” every year before he could keep a cow.
Robert Inkster, Swartifield, was represented by his son John. He deposed that the area of his croft was 6 acres 2 roods 36 poles arable; outrun 12 acres 4 roods. The rent was £6; arrears, £12. His father had occupied the croft 45 years, and his grandfather 8 years. His father reclaimed 4 acres, and put up all the buildings at a cost of £50. The rent was raised in 1864 from £1 5s to £3; in 1875 to £5.
Mr ROBERTSON – He had two other crofts added.
Examination resumed – The stock was 1 horse, 1 cow, 1 stirk, 1 sheep, and 1 calf.
By Mr ROBERTSON – Recently a sheep and a cow had been sold.
John Craigie, Blackhammer, had 1½ acres arable, and 9½ outrun. The rent was £2 10s. He had one cow – that was the whole.
Mr BRAND – Well, it is a very select stock indeed. (Laughter.)
Examination resumed – His arrears were £4 5s on Whitsunday, but he had paid £1 in August. Had been in occupation of the croft 24 years, and his father 21 before him. His uncle preceded his father, and did all the reclamation and building. In 1865 the rent was raised from 10s to 15; in 1873 to 30s ; and in 1880 to £2 10s.
By Mr ROBERTSON – He went to the fishing and worked, besides, as a day labourer.
John Craigie, Deith, deposed to having 2 acres arable; outrun, 11 acres. His stock was 1 cow. The rent was £4; arrears, £3. He had occupied the place 25 years, and broken in 1¾ acres. He had spent £30 on buildings, and done ditching and draining. In 1872 the rent was raised from 17s 6d to £1 15s; and in 1879 to £3.
Magnus Alexander, Wasbister, had evidence given on his behalf by his son James. He deposed that the area of their croft was 2½ acres arable and 7¼ acres outrun.
Mr ROBERTSON mentioned that Alexander was a sub-tenant. The application, therefore, should be served on the principal tenant – Alexander Craigie, Feolquoy. He did not make any objection, however, to the case going on.
Examination resumed – The stock was 1 cow, 1 calf, 1 ewe, and 1 pig. The rent was £2 10s. It was paid to Alexander Craigie. His father had occupied 13 years, and broken in 1½ acres, built a byre and 3 sheds at a cost of £8. He had put in 15 chains couple and stone drains, and 4 chains of dyke. The rent was raised in 1879 from to £1 to £2 10s.
By the COURT – His father worked for Craigie.
John Inkster, Little Cogar (48), said the area of his croft was 1¾ acres arable and 7¾ acres outrun. His stock was 1 cow and a pig. The rent was £3 5s; arrears £2 11s 7d. Occupied 24 years; broken in ½ an acre, and put up buildings at a cost of £35. He had trenched ½ an acre, and made drains and ditches. Has no common grazing now.
By the COURT – He was the skipper of a boat, and a School Board officer. (laughter.) He had a third share of one boat, and a fourth share of another.
By Mr ROBERTSON – Sometimes there was good fishing in Saviskaill Bay, but it was a very dangerous place.
John Craigie, Shalter, a sub-tenant of Alexander Craigie, Feolquoy, had 2½ acres arable and 7¼ acres outrun. Had 1 cow, 1 ewe, and 1 Iamb. The rent was £2; no arrears. Had occupied 24 years. It was 50 years since his father went there. They had broken in all the land, and erected all the buildings. The rent up to 1864 was 6d; then 10s; next £1; and finally £2.
By Mr ROBERTSON – He had realised about £4 10s from the sale of stock recently.
After luncheon, the Commissioners proceeded with the Rousay cases.
Hugh Craigie, Turbitail, was the first of four applicants for fair rent from the farm of Langskaill, in the occupation of Mr John Gibson.
Mr DREVER said he had an explanation and objection to make in regard to these applications. The total acreage of Langskaill was 184 acres 2 roods 6 poles arable and 741 acres 2 roods 3 poles outrun, making a total of 925 acres 3 roods 16 poles, of which the rent was £170. The total acreage of the farm itself was 139; outrun 710 – total 849, and the rest per acre of the arable £1 0s 4d, or arable and outrun together 3s 4d. The area of the cottars was 34 acres 1 rood 16 poles arable, and 31 acres outrun – total 65. Of this the rate per acre, excluding the outrun, was 11s 7d, and with the outrun 6s 1d. The principal tenant here, he might say, lived on amicable terms with his crofters. He was bound, however, by a covenant in his lease to remove these crofters at the expiry of his 19 year’s lease, which was entered into at Martinmas 1881. This private covenant was between himself and his landlord, and was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commissioners or the provisions of the Crofters Act, with which it was inconsistent. That being so, if he acquiesced in the claim of the applicants to be considered crofters and to have a fair rent fixed, it would be impossible for him to fulfil his covenant with the over-landlord.
Mr BRAND – A private covenant is always subject to the supervening effects of an Act of Parliament.
Mr DREVER – Yes, if it be intended, and the Act does cut down private covenants, which we contend the Crofters Act does not in this case. It neither does so expressly or by implication. On the contrary, while the Crofters Act made provision for a case of hardship like this in applications for enlargement of holdings, and authorised a readjustment of the bargain, it made none in applications for fair rent, and these crofts were part of this large farm. The principal tenant had no wish to press parties to extremes; he only wished to place before the Commissioners the truth of the matter, as it affected his relations with the over-landlord.
Mr BRAND – That is quite fair. I think you, as acting for a statutory landlord, are bound to state these things. It would be very serious for you if the objection did not appear on the face of the proceedings. What we may do with it is a very different matter.
Mr DREVER went on to say that by the second covenant of the lease Mr Gibson was allowed to sub-let the cots on the farm, subject to a certain veto on the part of General Burroughs. These lands of Langskaill, prior to 1843, belonged to the principal tenant’s ancestors, and at the date mentioned they were sold by James Gibson, dyer in Edinburgh, to an ancestor of General Burroughs for a small price. Part of the purchase arrangement was that a long lease of 36 years was to be entered into at a rent of £30 with two nephews of the seller. That least expired in 1881, when the present lease was entered into at a rent of £170. That would account to some extent for General Burroughs’ rise to rent apart altogether from the increase in the land valuation and land profits. Immediately upon this new arrangement being entered into between General Burroughs and Mr Gibson, the rents of the cots were naturally raised. Mr Drever went on to point out that in the present case a new and triple relation between statutory landlord and cottars and crofters had been established, that these crofters or crofterships were accessories of the main lease – accessorium sequitur principale [an accessory does not draw, but follows its principal] – and were dominated by its covenants. If under lease the subject was excluded from the operation of the Act, and the applicants were not crofters. A public act could not override this private covenant, nor was the lease cut down by it, or intended so to be cut down. Had it been otherwise the fact would have been made clearly intelligible; and so he contended that the subject was excluded, not only by this private covenant, but by the Act itself.
Mr THOMSON held that the difficulty under the Act was no bar to the applicants being held as crofters. If the applicants fulfilled the other conditions of being persons who, at the passing of the Act, were tenants holding from year to year, then they were crofters, and it would be a strange doctrine indeed to hold that any private contract was to modify the terms of an Act of Parliament. As to the principal farm being more dearly rented than the crofts he held that that was not the case. If the arable were to be taken alone it had 139 acres rented at £1 per acre; but this farm did not consist of arable and outrun, but outrun and arable. The outrun here was 710 acres, and if the grass were taken – the farm being used as a sheep farm – the average rent paid per acre by the principal tenant would be found to be 3s 4d; while the crofters paid 6s 1d and 15s 2d.
Mr DREVER said that 500 acres of the outrun was common to the principal tenant and the crofters. The farm was a mixed one, and Mr Thomson’s comparison was not correct. You could not compare incomparables. If you compared arable, it must be compared with another arable.
The witness Craigie having been sworn, deposed that he had 2 cows, 2 calves, a pony, and 3 sheep (but not on the farm). His rent was £7; no arrears. His area was 11½ arable and 6 outrun. He had been 34 years in occupation. He had built every building on the holding at a cost of £68. In 1862 the rent was raised from £2 to £3. It was next raised to £4; lastly to £7.
James Craigie, Burness, Wasbister, had 8 acres 3 rods 80 poles; outrun, 13 acres. His stock was 2 milk cows, 1 calf, and a pony. The rent was £5 10s; no arrears except £2 15s. Had been 5 years in the place. His father, who preceded him, broke in 2 acres, and they had put up the buildings.
By Mr DREVER – Had sold 2 oxen and a calf during the year. He got a 10 per cent reduction last year from Mr Gibson.
Sarah Ann Marwick, Whitemeadow, was represented by Hugh Marwick (23). Had 8 acres 9 rods 75 poles arable, and 7 acres 1 rod 88 poles. The stock was 1 cow, 1 year-old, 1 ewe, and 1 lamb.
Does she live alone on the croft? – Yes; she lives alone with some of her brothers. (Laughter.)
How many brothers has she got? – Eight.
How many live on the croft? – Four.
Witness (resuming) said the rent was £4, reduced last year to £3; no arrears. His sister had occupied the place about 2 years. His father was there before her. He had been tenant 21 years. Her father reclaimed all the land except 1¼ acres at a cost of £30. The rent was raised in 1881 from £1 to £4. They grazed on a part of Kierfea.
Robert Pearson (42), Castlehill, had 5 acres 3 rods 91 poles arable; 4 acres 8 rods 95 poles outrun. His stock was 1 cow, 1 one-year-old, 1 sheep, and 1 horse. The rent was £4 10s; no arrears. He had occupied the place 11 years, and broken in 1¼ acres, and built a new dwelling-house at a cost of £17. He had carted a good deal of earth and fish-manure on the croft.
Mr BRAND – Do you call fish-manure a permanent improvement? – The crops get the benefit of it.
Witness (resuming) said the landlord supplied wood for the roof and some lime. His rent was raised in 1881 from £3 10s to £4 10s. He still had the right of grazing.
By the COURT – He had sold a cow, a calf, and an ox this year.
This concluded the sub-tenancy cases.
Hugh Pearson, (34), Kirkgate, had 6½ acres arable and 18½ outrun. His stock was 1 cow, 1 year-old, 1 calf, 1 ewe, and 1 lamb. The rent was £6; arrears, £11 6s 4d. For 10 years he had been in the place, and for 32 years previously it had been in his father’s possession. Had broken in 2½ acres, and rebuilt the whole of the houses on the place except the byre at a cost of £15. The rent was raised in 1878 from £2 10s to £6, 6 acres being added, ½ acre only being arable. He lost the right of grazing in 1874.
Mr BRAND here observed that with what looked like startling rises of rent must be considered the fact that for long long years the rent may have remained stationary.
Witness – lf the rent remained stationary the croft was reduced. (Laughter.)
Mrs Margaret Marwick or Mowat, Garret, a sub-tenant of Mr Craigie, Feolquoy, said her whole croft consisted of 5 acres, divided in equal portions between arable and outrun. She had 1 cow, 1 calf, and 2 sheep. The rent was £1 10s; no arrears. For 24 years she had been in the place, and broken in all the land. She paid the previous tenant £10 for a horse and byre, and herself spent another £13 on buildings. The rent was raised in 1871 from 10s to £1; and in 1878 to 30s. The common was withdrawn in 1874, and she had now no common grazing. When she had the common she did not pay for grazings, but now she had to pay a rent for it.
John Gibson, Sketquoy, said he had 28 acres 3 rods 11 poles arable and 12 acres outrun. His stock was 4 cows, 4 one-year-olds, 4 calves, 2 horses, 1 one-year-old pony, and 6 sheep.
By Mr ROBERTSON – Applicant and another grazed on about 100 acres, known as Sacquoy Head.
Examination resumed – Had occupied 27 years, and his father and grandfather before him. He had broken in 14 acres, and erected a dwelling-house at his own expense. The rent in 1852 was £11 8s. It was raised by General Burroughs – who acquired the property about 1852 – to £22 10s, and finally to £30. He was allowed a third of the rent for 9 years.
Robert Inkster, Ploverhall, a sub-tenant of Mr Craigie, Feolquoy, had 1½ acres arable and 6 acres outrun. His stock was 1 cow and 1 ewe.
Mr BRAND – Is that all? – Yes, and I can’t keep that either since I lost the common.
Witness (resuming – The rent was £1 10s; arrears, £3 15s. His mother had the place before him. He reclaimed the whole arable land except an acre, and spent £12 on buildings. Had trenched 1¼ acres. The rent was originally 8s; in 1878 it was raised to £1 10s.
How does it happen you are the only man behind in your rent in Feolquoy?
Mrs Isabella Marwick was represented by Hugh Marwick, her husband, who said the area of her croft was 2¼ acres arable and 8 outrun.
Mr BRAND – Is your wife the tenant? How does that happen?
Witness – She had the house before I came there. (Laughter.)
Mr BRAND – And she prefers being tenant herself?
Witness – She has been it anyway. (Laughter.)
Witness resuming, said – The stock was 1 cow, 1 one-year-old. They had to pay for grazing in the summer. The rent was £2 10s; arrears, 17s 8d.
Mr BRAND – Who was the tenant before your wife?
Witness – Her father-in-law.
Mr BRAND – How is that?
Witness – She was married before. (Laughter.)
The cases from Rousay having been concluded,
Mr ROBERTSON said that within the last 12 years the money expended upon the estate occasioned a rent charge of about £480, the greater part of which was payable by the proprietor. That was one reason for the rise of rents. It had been Insinuated once or twice by the crofters’ agent that when a crofter had been allowed to remain rent free it was for the advantage of the proprietor. He thought, however, that he had already shown that General Burroughs had lost about £600 by the arrangement. He had paid the whole poor rates, so that if that were the case, he ought to be credited with the money that he had remitted to the tenants as part of the money that he had lost. The Rousay people, he held, were at a great advantage in not suffering from sea-gust, of which they had heard so much. They had no “burning” from sand, as there was hardly any sand in the island, and they possessed the best fishing ground in the count. The harbour had been talked of as dangerous, but they never heard of any lives being lost there. With regard to the people, a witness before Lord Napier’s Commission had spoken of their “great and increasing poverty,” but he did not think his lordship had as yet seen any great appearance of it. On this, and other points, however, he would read a statement which had been drawn up by General Burroughs himself. Mr Robertson then proceeded to read the statement of General Burroughs as follows: –
I succeeded my grand uncle. the late Mr G. W. Traill, as proprietor of the estate of Rousay and Viera in 1852. I found a system of management established, which appeared to be both efficient and popular; and I have continued it. This system with regard to the cultivation of uncultivated land was to let the land at 6d, or 1s., or 2s an acre, according to its quality, for the first 7 years of a 21 years’ lease; for double the amount for the second 7 years; and for treble (1s 6d, or 3s, or 6s), for the third 7 years, the tenant agreeing to erect what buildings he required from materials (except wood and stone) obtainable on the estate; and to bring the land under cultivation. The tenant considered that in 21 years he recouped himself with profit for his labour. After 21 years a new agreement was come to between proprietor and tenant, and a moderate rent was put on the holding. Until the visit of the first Crofter Commission in 1883, the above system was popular, and I had more demands from applicants for sand on these terms than I could supply. At present there are no such demands. Tenants sometimes after taking farms wanted improvements carried out on them. In these cases, interest or rent charge was charged thereon according to whether the farm had been let at a low rent for the tenant to carry out the improvements or not. Since 1840, some £40,000 has been expended on improvements on this estate. This money was laid out with a view of improving the estate, and the social condition of all on it; and in the expectation of its returning a fair interest on the outlay. I have been over and over again told by tenants that although the rent they now paid was treble or more than they originally paid, they could pay the higher rent much easier now than the low rent formerly. Before 1840 little or no attention had been paid in Rousay or Viera to the proper cultivation of the soil. Rent had been chiefly derived from kelp making. Before 1840 there was not a road in Rousay. There was no post. There was no regular communication between Rousay and anywhere beyond it, or within it. There was hardly a walled enclosure on the island, and the run-rig system, where the land was cultivated, was still in force. Since 1840 some 20 miles of excellent macadamised roads have been made. Some 30 miles of stone dykes for enclosures, and about 9 miles of wire-fencing have been erected. Large sums have been laid out in building and repairing dwelling-houses and steadings, and in draining the land. About, and many years after, 1840 the dwellings generally were very comfortless; few had any fire-place beyond a hearth-stone in the centre of a room with a hole in the roof above it to let out the smoke. Now such an arrangement, I think, is not to be met with on the estate. A daily post has been established, and a daily postman makes the circuit of the island. A pier has been built at my own expense, which I permit to be freely used by all; and it is found to be of very great convenience to all the inhabitants for shipping their cattle and produce for market, and for landing their imports; and also of great convenience to themselves in embarking and disembarking in and from vessels in comfort and with dry feet, which before its erection they were hardly able to do. A steamer has been purchased by a locally-established company, of which I am the principal shareholder, but which has not yet returned a dividend. By it a regular and comfortable means.of communication has been established for the past 9 years between Rousay and Kirkwall, the county town. Since 1840 steam communication with Orkney has very greatly increased. Before 1840 a small steamer had just commenced plying once a week between Kirkwall and Leith; and the post between Orkney and Caithness and the rest of the world was carried across the Pentland Firth in an open sailing boat. Now several steamers ply weekly between Leith, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Liverpool, and a daily mail steamer carries the post to and fro across the Pentland Firth. This increased communication has naturally given a great impetus to the imports and exports of the county, and has added very considerably to the general wealth of the inhabitants. So much so that when Lord Napier of Ettrick’s Crofter Commission was in Kirkwall in 1883 it transpired that about half-a-million of money was lodged in the banks of the county in the names of the tenant farmers (including crofters) of Orkney. By a perusal of the Agricultural Statistics for Scotland it will be seen what very great strides in prosperity this county has made since 1840. As an instance I may state that in 1840 a good cow would be bought from £2 10s to £3, and a sheep for about 2s 6d. Good cows now cost from £15 to £18 (5 to 6 times more), and sheep from £1 to £2 (8 to 16 times more). It was lately stated in the newspapers of the county that the produce of eggs from Orkney, as checked by the exports, almost equalled the amount of its total land rent. The fishing industry has also to be taken into account. The value of the fish annually landed in Orkney, as per the Scottish Fishery Statistics, also about equals its total land rent. The seas around this group of islands are alive with fish, and it is not too much to say that the least skilled fisherman by a few hours’ fishing will catch as much fish as he will be able to eat in a week. Fish in profusion can for several months of the year be caught off the rocks of Rousay without even venturing into a boat. And these fish can be caught by women as well as by men. These fish supply food for man, oil for lamps, and an excellent fertiliser for the fields. I have heard it repeatedly said that crofters who combine fishing with farming not uncommonly clear from £50 to £100 on a year’s fishing! Crofters now-a-days often give an excuse for withholding payment of their rent, that they do not (not can not) take the rent of their holdings out of the land, but out of the sea; and that what they get out of the sea is their own; quite regardless of the fact that they can not live in the sea but must live on the land, and that their dwellings being favourably situated for prosecuting the fishing industry enables them profitably to follow it; and that, all the world over, dwellings must either be owned or rented, and are valuable or otherwise in reference to the advantages offered by the positions they occupy. Besides the fish in the seas, on the shores of these islands sea-weed and shell-sand are to be had in abundance, and by their use the heavy bills for fertiliser incurred by the inhabitants of inland districts are avoided by crofters and small farmers here. The mildness of the climate in winter, caused by the influence of the Gulf Stream, and snow seldom lying here beyond a few days without melting away, renders it unnecessary to send sheep south for wintering, which is a very considerable saving to our farmers. The climate is so healthy that, I am thankful to say, our flocks and herds have never yet been afflicted with the epidemics and diseases which have been so common lately elsewhere. On this subject a local newspaper – the Orkney Herald of 2nd November 1887 – in its leading article said: “It may fairly be said that the Orkney livestock market has in no sense suffered to the same extent as the counties and districts in other ports of Scotland. The islands have long been free from infectious disease; and while other markets have been tabooed, theirs has always been open to the southern buyer.” All who have been to Paris know that the butchers of that great city make an extra charge for “Mouton pré salé,” or for mutton raised on pastures sprinkled with sea-spray. All Orkney mutton is “Mouton pré salé,” and is highly prized wherever known. Poverty there may be, for we are told the poor are ever to be among us, but Want, as experienced in our cities and large centres of population, is, I maintain, unknown in the county districts of these islands. Every person in this parish has a good roof over his or her head, and if kept clean and tidy their houses are comfortable; they have enough to eat; sufficient warm clothing to wear; and plenty of peat in Rousay for fuel. There is plenty of work to occupy the industrious, in fact more work than in these times there are willing hands to do it. As to the condition of the inhabitants of Rousay being one “generally of great and increasing poverty,” as stated by a witness before Lord Napier’s Crofter Commission in Kirkwall, the statement is simply untrue. It may describe the condition of one or two, but it certainly does not truthfully describe the condition of any sober, careful, and industrious man on my estate. Drunkards, and dissolute, lazy, and improvident persons are to be found in every community, and amongst all orders of men, and their poverty can’t but increase. In 1840 there was but one minister in this parish at a stipend of say about £200 a year; now (January 1888) there are four of various denominations for the care of 1118 souls. Their salaries amount to say about £700 a year. The church-going community, deducting the feeble, the aged, and the very young, may be estimated at say about 600 persons or 800 persons. There are also now five teachers and five sewing-mistresses to instruct some 200 children! The teachers’ salaries amount to about say £300 or £320 a-year.
Mr BRAND – Is it suggested that the spiritual and educational provision is excessive? (Laughter.)
Resuming, Mr ROBERTSON proceeded: – The total of ministers’ and teachers’ stipends and salaries amount to about £1000 a-year. The gross rental of the parish of Rousay and Egilshay is £3800 a-year! Although there are four resident ministers in the parish, there is no resident doctor. Rent, which used to be punctually paid up, is now being withheld. A local agitator, I was informed, told his hearers at a meeting is this parish that the greater the amount of arrears of rent due by them, the greater amount of these arrears would be forgiven them, and the more would their rent be reduced, by the Crofters Commissioners. Many appear to be acting on this advice. My factor told that when calling on tenants in arrears of rent in January 1888 he obtained from some little or no rent, but much insult and insolence. One man told him plainly that the “crofters” had agreed amongst themselves not to pay any rent until after the visit of the Crofter Commissioners. Another man told me that, “The land is the people’s.” I replied that I had never said it was not, but that the Queen, Lords, and Commons constituted the people, and not one section of the community only, and that, being one of the people, I was surely as justly entitled to my land, which had been as honestly paid for, as, I hoped, had the coat on his back. Another told me he had paid rent long enough to buy the land he rented, and, therefore, considered he should pay no more. I told him if he borrowed £100 he would have to pay interest on it until he paid up the principle, however long he kept it; and so with land which was the capital he had borrowed from me to trade on. I mention these cases to show the ideas at present prevailing, and which have been sedulously propagated of late by agitators. I have drawn up a tabular statement showing the prices obtained for farm produce annually during the past 40 years; indicating that cattle and sheep are about the same now as in 1870, or since the present rents of farms were fixed on my estate. Prices have certainly fallen since the year 1883, but they were exceptionally high that year. Grain has fallen in price, but little of it is exported by crofters. Against this, groceries and other articles now considered necessaries of life amongst the rural as well as town populations are very much cheaper than they need to be, and, although almost unknown here in 1840, when money was very scarce, are now largely consumed. Elderly men in this parish have told me that in their younger days they hardly ever saw money. All this points rather to increase of wealth than to “great and increasing poverty.” Wages, too, have been high and ever increasing. Crofters and their children generally earn wages, which also have been a considerable source of income to those willing to work. The inspector of roads in Rousay has of late been almost unable to get men to work on the repair and maintenance of the roads. With regard to the increase in the rental of this estate, it appears, from a statement made by Mr Anderson in Parliament (see Scotsman of 23rd February 1888), that agricultural rents have increased in Scotland during the past hundred years, from 1780 to 1884, six hundred per cent! viz., from £1,200,000 to £7,505,000 a-year. Also, that the rise in the value of personal property in Scotland as evidenced by the Probate Duties paid, has increased in thirty-eight years, from 1840 to 1877, five hundred per cent! viz, from £196,000.000 in 1840 to £970,000,000 in 1877. When there has been such a very remarkable increase in the wealth of the country, by what reason can it be upheld that Orkney must not participate in it? And why not Rousay, upon which, as before said, some £40,000 have been laid out in improvements since 1848? Is the proprietor to be permitted to get no return for the capital he has laid out? The withholding of rents on this estate is not from poverty, as before explained, and as may be seen by the general appearance of its inhabitants any day, and by the dress of the congregations of any of the churches on a Sabbath. The harvest of 1887 has been an exceedingly bountiful one. Grain, although low in price, has been very plentiful in quantity, and good in quality. It is estimated to have produced about five quarters to the acre. And the price of cattle, although much less than in the exceptionally high-priced year 1883, is little, if at all, below the average of prices since 1878. Potatoes, too, were an excellent crop. With regard to tenants paying less than £10 of yearly rent for the houses, byres, and land they occupy; in Kirkwall or any town they could hardly obtain two rooms for less than £5 a-year. In Glasgow, they would cost them £9 to £10 a-year; and in London, £14 or £15 a-year. And in a town they would be compelled to pay rates for water, lighting, &c., and to make money payments for fuel, none of which require any pecuniary outlay on their part in Rousay. In a town, too, they would have no land to grow grain, potatoes, turnips, and vegetables; no cows, and no poultry; on which they subsist. To those preferring a town life, towns are every-where open to them, but they will find no town where the able-bodied can live rent free, or pay less rent for their dwellings than their market price. I remitted 10 per cent of the rent for crop 1887 to all my tenants who paid rent due by them within one month of the term days of Whitsunday and Martinmas of that year. And I again did so for the first half-year of 1888. In doing so, I pointed out as above stated that Orkney had “in no sense suffered to the same extent as the counties and districts in other parts of Scotland;” that depression was being experienced all over the world, and by all classes of the community; that it was not confined only to agriculturists; and that other classes received no abatements of the dues required from them. Whatever the needs of the Celtic populations in other places may be I cannot say, but the inhabitants of Orkney are not Celtic but Scandinavian, and anyone who has had dealings with them can certify that they are neither infants in business, nor fatuous persons requiring special legislation to enable them to take care of themselves. There is often much truth in the proverbs of a country, and there is a saying prevalent, even in Aberdeen, that when a person is exceptionally intelligent, it is said that “He comes frae very far North.” In conclusion, I can honestly say that I have done all in my power to improve my estate, and the condition of all on it. I have made it my home; and I spend my means on it. That the inhabitants of Rousay and Veira are totally exempt from all the ills that flesh is heir to, I do not pretend to say; who is? but I do say that their condition will bear favourable comparison with that of persons in their class of life in any place I am acquainted with. They are naturally a very respectable class of people, but at present the minds of many of them have been tempted from the right path by the insidious representations of false friends and professional agitators, who have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Mr THOMSON said the document they had just heard read was exactly of the kind they have expected from such a source. While he was not inclined to dispute the general observations it contained, he could not accept the statements put forward in regard to the poor rates. The particular case he referred to showed very decided finesse on the part of the proprietor, who got rid of paying poor rates at the expense of the son of a crofter. The woman, in this case, who otherwise would have fallen upon the rates, was left sitting rent-free in a little hut on the hill on condition that her son should work the croft for her, and thereby keep her off the Parochial Board. General Burroughs, in that way, got rid of paying poor rates for her. What he now wanted from Mr Robertson was a statement showing in detail what General Burroughs had paid in poor rates, and he would then show what the road money had been. Having quoted from the report of the Napier Commission as to the system of estate management existing in Rousay, Mr Thomson proceeded to lay special emphasis on the “progressive rentals” which he alleged had been laid upon the crofters. He believed, indeed, that during General Burroughs’ time the rents had been quadrupled. As indicating the manner in which they had been treated, he felt bound also to point to the very numerous occasions on which the proprietor had raised actions against his tenants; but he was very glad to say at the same time that this was the only estate in Orkney in which such harshness had been dealt out to the tenants. Again, it was said that some £40,000 had been expended by General Burroughs on the estate. He desired to say that a large proportion of that had been expended on residential buildings and the steadings of large farms, and in fencing land in order to keep the crofters off. (Laughter.) He was afraid to speculate, however, because the items of this £40,000 were slumped together –
Mr BRAND – It was £37,000 according to Lord Napier’s Commission.
Mr ROBERTSON – There have been further sums spent.
Mr BRAND – Money paid to the poor is included in the expenditure on the estate.
Mr ROBERTSON – It includes his whole expenditure on the property.
Mr THOMSON – If rates and assessments are included, it gives no idea whatever of the state of the case.
Mr BRAND admitted that the statement required a little elucidation.
Mr THOMSON, proceeding with his reply, dealt next with the price of cattle now and formerly. About 1840, he said, no doubt very large prices had been realised; but since then the kind of cattle in Orkney had changed entirely. One animal of the breed kept now was as difficult to keep as two or three of the kind kept before – he meant the small Orkney cattle. General Burroughs also stated that he had been well-informed that crofters, in addition to the produce of their holdings, made from £50 to £100 by the fish. All he could say in answer to that was that from the information he had been able to obtain, the case was very different. As regarded this fish question, however, he purposed laying before the Commissioners a statement next day from a practical fish curer, as hitherto they had only heard one side of the question. Then, again, reference was made in the statement to the fact that there were 4 ministers for 1118 souls. In passing, he thought it only right to say in this connection that during General Burroughs time the souls in the island had decreased from 1263 to 1118 – which was rather indicative of the place being pretty hot. (Laughter.) The statement that in Rousay light, fuel, water, &c., cost nothing, while these were heavily paid for in large towns, was rather wild. Light, fuel, water, &c., all cost the crofters labour, and all over the world labour was valuable except apparently in Rousay. (A laugh.) Mr Robertson, in his turn, had dwelt on the appearance of the people. He (Mr Thomson) was proud to say that the people of these islands were always of respectable appearance, but that was due to cleanliness and tidiness of habit and to their economical mode of living.
Mr ROBERTSON said he should like to take the evidence of one skilled witness as to the prices of stock now as compared with various periods since 1850. He called…..
…..Mr John Gibson, Langskaill, who deponed, in answer to Mr Robertson, that he had been farming for the last 40 years, and been buying and selling stock during that period. In the year 1852 a brother of his went to the Stromness market, and got 35s for a stot rising 3 year old, and £3 for 2 work stots. At the present time he could now get £14 or £15. They had Orkney cows at that time, and he wished they had them now, as they made better crosses. Cows that would cost £5 or £6 then would now fetch £14.
The CHAIRMAN – Comparing 1875-6-7 with 1882-3-4, would you say there has been a declension in prices of cattle in Orkney? – Yes; and in 1883 they were not so high as in 1877.
What percentage of declension would there be between 1877 and 1883? – In 1882 they could get from £18 to £20 for two-year-olds; in 1883-4 the prices decreased £4.
Mr BRAND – A declension of over 30 per cent. Am I right in supposing that prices have not yet recovered? – They have recovered a little during the last 2 years, the last year especially. They had not recovered in full.
Mr BRAND – Comparing the price of two-year-olds at the present day with the price of similar animals in 1882-3, what would be the difference? – I think fully 20 per cent.
Mr BRAND – Do you know anything about fishing ? – A little but not much.
Are you aware of this that on the very year when the prices of stock went down, the herring fishing was to some extent a failure. Has it been recovered from since? – Yes, a little in some cases, but I only know the fact by looking at the newspapers.
You are aware the price of sheep declined in 1882-3? – Yes.
How are they now? – They are up this year from 3s to 4s a head compared with last year.
Have they not entirely recovered from the depression of 1882-3? – About recovered it. The prices in 1874 and 1888 nearly correspond.
What do you say to horses. Was there a declension in 1882-3? – There is a great declension in the price of horses. That declension has continued up till the present time.
Is there a horse trade in Rousay, because in the island of Tiree we found that the crofters bred horses extremely and sent them South? – There is nothing of that kind in Rousay.
Can you compare prices in 1850-2 with those in 1886-8? – I could not go so far back unless I had my accounts, but I think horses were beginning to rise.
Where do the Orkney breeders mostly dispose of their cattle? – They sometimes dispose of them in the islands to travelling drovers, sometimes put them into Kirkwall, and sometimes send them to Aberdeen or Edinburgh.
Mr THOMSON – Can you compare the price of horses in 1874 and 1878? – About 1857 the price of horses was comparing pretty closely to the prices at present. They were not so very low then. You could get £20 for a fair good horse, but not so much now.
Mr THOMSON – Compare 1874 and 1888? – Well I could not answer decidedly about that.
Would you say that the price of horses declined in 1883 and has not recovered yet? – Yes that is so.
What percentage of fall in the price of horses do you give from 1879 to the present date? – I could not say exactly.
Mr BRAND – As you were called by Mr Robertson as a skilled witness, he should have had you better instructed. (Laughter.)
The COURT then rose.
Messrs Miller (assessor) and Ferrier (valuator) visited Rousay on Monday for the purpose of inspecting crofts, and will finish that part of the work to-day (Wednesday). It is expected that the first batch of decisions will be issued either on Thursday or Friday.
1888 October 2 Glasgow Herald
THE CROFTERS COMMISSION IN ORKNEY – DECISIONS ON
ROUSAY AND OTHER ESTATES.
(From our Special Correspondent.)
Kirkwall, Monday Night
The last batch of decisions which the Commissioners intend to issue at present in the Orkney cases was lodged with the Sheriff-Clerk here to-day. They included final orders in the applications from Rousay, Westray, and part of the mainland, and the results were in several respects the most unexpected of any yet produced. Before going into the details of to-day’s decisions it may be explained that, including those issued last week, the Commissioners have now finally disposed of 283 cases in the county of Orkney, showing an average reduction of 26½ per cent. on the rental, and arrears cancelled to the extent of 49½ per cent.
The total rental of £3542 4s 6d on which the Commissioners were asked to adjudicate has been reduced to £2591 9s 6d, and of £3175 7s 6d of arrears £1567 13s 2d have been cancelled. This result as a whole has caused considerable surprise, as it was urged by many that the county of Orkney did not require a visit from the Commissioners; and it had been even prophesied that rises of rent would have been the result of their visit. Very special interest was taken in the batch issued to-day, as it was understood to include those on General Burroughs’s estate of Rousay, where the agitation was more vigorous than in any part of Orkney, and from the evidence given by the tenants it was anticipated that the reductions would be the most severe the Commissioners had yet issued. The result, however, was a complete surprise. In 42 applications from Rousay the average reduction was only 28½ per cent, on the rental, and about half of the arrears were cancelled. The rental was reduced from £350 to £250 8s, and £157 17s 9d of arrears were cancelled out of a total of £289 4s 9d. Only in the case of one or two small rents did the reduction amount to 50 per cent., while in four cases the rents were unaltered, and in one case there was actually a rise…..
The Commissioners intended to leave Kirkwall to-day by the steamer St Olaf, but a severe storm has prevented her crossing the Pentland Firth. They will cross to Scrabster to-morrow morning, if the storm abates, and it is understood that they will begin sitting in Lewis at an early date…..
The following is the table of decisions:-
1888 October 3 Orkney Herald
THE FAIR RENT DECISIONS. – The outcome of the Crofters Commissioners’ visit to Orkney has fully justified the expectations of those who, like ourselves, refused to lower these islands to the level of a Highland crofting county, and write down as spiritless serfs a class of men who have brought their island soil to its present state of fertility. In no other county in the kingdom has agriculture made more rapid strides within the last thirty years than in Orkney; and it cannot be denied that, before this could be achieved, landlord and tenant must have worked together to some purpose, combining capital and labour in the process, and reaping, if in somewhat unequal shares, the fruits of their industry. If one were to believe the well-paid agitator, the glib enunciator of half-truths and entire falsehoods, the crofters of Orkney have long been in a position incompatible with self-respect and a spirit of independence, that they have tamely submitted all along to grinding exaction and forced servitude at the hands of the landlords. That is not so. Up till within a few years ago, when times of depression began, there was comparative comfort in their midst, if, at the same time it was linked to hard labour and economical management – the common lot of most members of the world’s community. To some extent, the landlords were slow to realise the depth and extent of the depression, with the result that they held on to impossible rents, rents which in some cases neither the soil nor the sea could produce. The tribunal allotted to the crofters has now put an end to all this. The reduction of 27 per cent made on their aggregate rents by the Commissioners replaces them in their previous position, representing as it does as nearly as possible the fall in agricultural prices since 1880. Thus it will be seen that here in Orkney the complaint has not been so much that of rack-renting as a failure to reduce rents in sympathy with the downward tendency of the market. Tenant farmers all over Scotland have had similar reductions without application to any Commission, and many of them are not even satisfied yet; but the fact that the Commissioners seem, in a majority of cases, to have framed their reductions by reference simply to the fall in prices, leaves little room for the assertion that at any time previous to the commencement of the present depression, there was any genuine system of rack renting throughout the county, except on one or two estates…..Since the Commissioners dealt with the Duke of Sutherland’s Dornoch property, no other proprietor has suffered less by their decisions, and none, it may be added, has given more facilities to his crofters for making application for fair rent. The result, too, of the applications from the Rousay and Veira estates, has been such as to refute a good deal of recent wild and irresponsible talk, showing as it does that while four crofters have been ordered to sit at their present rents, and one has had his rent raised, the average reduction on the remainder is little more than that made on the aggregate crofts throughout the county…..
1888 October 10 Falkirk Herald
THE CHANNEL FLEET KIRKWALL. – On Monday the Northumberland was thrown open to visitors, and though a stiff breeze of westerly wind was blowing, and the sea was a little choppy, large numbers of people visited the vessel. The little steamer Otter and a number of sailing boats plied between Kirkwall pier and the fleet till dark, and had a busy time of it. During the day the several boats’ crews engaged at torpedo practice in the bay, and were watched with great interest by large numbers of people on the quay. In the morning Admiral Baird and party sailed across to the Island of Rousay to have a day’s sport with General Burroughs, and a number of officers were shooting and fishing on the mainland, the favourite resort for the anglers being the Loch of Stenness. In the evening Provost Peace dined with Admiral Baird on the flagship. No sailors or marines got ashore yesterday, but about 400 got into town on Sunday night.
1888 October 17 Orkney Herald
GLASS BALLS AS FLOATS. – Glass balls about five inches in diameter, and entirely closed, are frequently pitched up on our shores, particularly in the North Isles, and have hitherto caused much conjecture as to their origin and use. One recently found bore the name of Laurvig, and so afforded the opportunity of obtaining information on these points. The British Vice-Consul in that place was communicated with, and he replies that the balls are used instead of cork by Norwegian fishermen, from Bergen northwards, as floats for their nets. He adds that it is some years since any have been manufactured with the name Laurvig on them.
1888 November 2 Dundee Courier
STUDYING THE CURRENTS. – ln the Island of Veira, which lies between Rousay and Kirkwall, there has been discovered a glass bottle, egg-shaped, nearly flat on the top, protected by a copper case of similar shape, but larger, the space between being filled with some sort of black substance resembling pitch. Inside was a paper bearing the following words in nine different languages:- “ln order to study the currents this paper has been thrown into the sea at the instance of Professor Pouchet, and in compliance with a resolution of the Municipal Council of Paris at their sitting of March 26,1886, during the third scientific expedition of the yacht L’Hirondelle, commanded by his Highness the Prince of Monaco. Any person finding the said document is asked to send it to the French Government, stating the circumstances under which it was found.”
1888 December 1 The Scotsman
Letters to the Editor
THE DECISIONS OF THE CROFTER COMMISSIONERS IN ORKNEY
Rousay, Orkney, N.B., November 23, 1888.
SIR, – Since the departure of the Crofter Commissioners from these Northern Isles, I have been endeavouring to account for the reasons for the reductions of rent and cancelling of arrears of rent decreed by them on my estate.
Although the reduction of my rental on the rents of fifty crofters for one year is comparatively small, and amounts to little more than £2 per each, and comes to £104 16s., yet in seven years over which period the decision of the Commissioners extends, it totals up to the sum of £733 12s., which, together with £136 2s. of arrears cancelled, represents a fine levied upon me of £869 14s.
I may be permitted to ask, why am I thus fined? I am not a rebel or a malefactor, to be thus treated. I and mine have done all in our power to improve this estate and the condition of all on it, and during the past forty years have laid out £40,000 on estate improvements. Why then, I ask, should the land held of me by crofters be now forcibly taken from me without compensation, and be handed over in perpetuity to a class of persons called crofters (who have no just right to it) and to their heirs, as long as they choose to continue to pay a rent below its market value fixed by a Parliamentary Commission, which is empowered to adjudicate in this matter every seven years, and thus perpetuate friction between landlords and tenants, and continue to foster ill-feeling between the masses and the classes?
Truly may it be said, in the words of a late distinguished author, that “the rigours of law may equal, if they do not often excel, the ravages of the most unjust despotism.”
I find the decrees of the Commissioners have worked the following results on the rentals of the fifty so called “crofters” on my estate who made application to them to have “fair rents” fixed. These “fair rents” have reduced these crofters’ rents to either what they were or below what they were from six to thirty-four years ago….
[A table was inserted here, showing the results of the decisions of the Crofters Commissioners on the estate of Rousay. It contained the number of crofts; the year back to which rent had been reduced; the number of years ago to which rent had been reduced; present rent (before decrease); fair rent (as decreased); and the rent in the year to which now reduced.]
The following tabular form [not included here], abridged into decades from the more extended one I laid before the Commission, shows the average prices obtained for bere (a species of barley), oats, cattle and sheep, for the last forty-two years on my home farms, of Westness from 1845 to 1875, and Trumland from 1876 to 1887. At Westness the sheep stock was Leicester and Cheviot crossed; at Trumland it is blackfaced. Wheat is not grown in Orkney. Rent is calculated principally on the produce of live stock.
The…..table will show, as was stated in a local newspaper, and as is noted in a “statement” that I laid before the Commission, that “the Orkney live stock market has in no sense suffered to the same extent as the counties and districts in other parts of Scotland. These Islands have all along been free from infectious disease, and while other markets have been tabooed theirs have always been open to the southern buyer.” There is a falling off in the price of oats since 1879, but as crofters say they buy and do not sell oats, this is in their favour.
Considering the very great impetus which has been given to the prosperity of these northern islands since the introduction and yearly increase of steam communication with southern markets, as pointed out in my “statement” above alluded to, the reductions of rent, as decreed by the Crofter Commissioners in Orkney, are simply inexplicable. Little or no consideration appears to have been paid by them as to the amount of money expended by proprietors on the improvement of their estates; and little or no difference has been made by them in the reductions decreed, whether the proprietor has so laid out much or laid out no money at all. At the same time, every assertion of expenditure made by a crofter, however unsupported by vouchers or any proof whatsoever, and regardless of any agreement he may have made with his landlord, appears to have been credited. It must be borne in mind, also, that the erection of a crofter’s dwelling house (mason and joiner work), measuring 30 by 12 by 6 ft., inside measurements, costs in 1888 about £10; in 1840 it cost about £5. For the same accommodation in any town a rent of at least £5 a year would be charged. The Commissioners appear to have acted as if they had been sent only to make reductions of rent and to forgive debts all round, and, with slight exceptions, they have done so.
And what, I ask, but endless confusion can be expected as the result of this interference with the security of property, this banishing of the laws of political economy to Saturn, in response to a party cry, got up for political purposes by certain atrocity-mongers and faddists and “old Parliamentary hands,” by which the good name of landowners in the northern counties of Scotland is being defamed and their property robbed? And why, for so unjust a cause, it may be asked, are three men invested with infallibility, and against whose decisions there is no appeal, to be permitted, at considerable expense to the State, to go through the northern counties of Scotland, with power to annul the provisions of leases, and to override laws hitherto held as just between contracting parties? As one instance of this out of many, I may mention that one of my farms, measuring 60 acres arable and 27 acres pasture, which has been held on lease, and has been occupied in joint-tenancy by two men for the past forty-three years, and which since 1879 has been rented at £60 a year, apparently for no other reason than because sixty divided by two makes thirty, has been decreed by the Commissioners to be two crofters’ holdings, and its rent has been reduced from £60 to £35 12s. (or £17 16s. for each man.) Its rent was £42 in 1854, thirty-four years ago. And since the publication of the fair-rent decisions by the Commissioners, one of my crofters has given up his croft. It was no sooner vacant than I received three offers for it at the rent it was before being reduced by the Commission, showing that the old rent was not too high, although 30 per cent. higher than that fixed by the Commission.
The foregoing tabular statement of the reductions of rent would furnish many other extraordinary instances of the judgements decreed by the Commissioners, but I fear I have already trespassed too much on your space to do so.
As might be expected, their decisions are pleasing but very few even of the crofters themselves, for many of them are now crying out that decisions are reckless, senseless, and unjust that many amongst themselves with better bargains with their landlords have received greater reductions of rent than others less favourably situated; and that those who have dishonestly withheld payment of rent have had their debts forgiven, whilst those who have honestly paid their debts have thus been losers by doing so.
In fact, landowners are being impoverished and disheartened at the treatment being dealt out to them, and the rural population is being demoralised by this most unreasonable legislation, and the sooner a return is made to the paths of honesty and common-sense, the better will it be for the whole community.
Trusting that the importance of the subject to a large portion of your readers may be my excuse for trespassing at such length on your space – I am, &c. F. BURROUGHS, Lt-Genl.
1888 December 5 Orkney Herald
INTERNECINE WARFARE IN ROUSAY. – In Orkney Sheriff Court yesterday, Sheriff Armour on the bench, Janet Sinclair or Craigie, wife of James Craigie, fisherman, Old School, Wasbister, was charged with having on the 9th ult., in the dwelling-house at the Old Schoolhouse, occupied by William Craigie, merchant, assaulted her sister-in-law Jane Elizabeth Gillespie or Craigie, wife of Alexander Craigie, farm servant, Lingro, by striking her on the head to the effusion of blood. Accused, who pleaded not guilty, was defended by Mr Angus Buchanan. Mr Cowper prosecuted.
The prosecutrix, in reply to Mr Cowper, said that on Wednesday 7th Nov., she was digging potatoes in a field on the farm of Feolquoy, which is in the occupation of her father-in-law, Alexander Craigie. While so engaged the accused came up, pushed her away, and began gathering up the potatoes she and her husband were digging. At the same time she made use of violent language, threatening to “mark” her, and to watch for her on every occasion. Witness’s husband interfered, but not before she had been pushed down, and struck on the arm with a stone. On the following Friday, witness had occasion to go to William Craigie’s shop, but on seeing accused in front of her, and about to enter the same premises, she lingered behind for five minutes or so in order, if possible, to avoid meeting her. Meeting Mary Craigie, who was carrying water, she soon after entered the passage leading to the shop, when all at once the accused sprang upon her and struck her repeatedly on the top of the head with something she had in her hand. Witness had given her no provocation, and indeed did not speak to her on entering. Mary Craigie was close behind.
The Sheriff – Are you all related?
Mr COWPER said the witness and accused were married to two brothers.
Witness (resuming) said that when the assault took place Mary Craigie ran outside screaming. As soon as possible she made her way to her father-in-law’s, where she told her story, and had the blood washed from her head, neck, and clothes.
Cross examined – Witness did not strike accused on the Tuesday preceding the assault in the potato field.
By the SHERIFF – Her husband had permission to take potatoes from the field, but she was not aware that his brother had.
Cross-examination continued – When the accused asked who had given her liberty to take potatoes, she replied that her husband had permission from his father. Accused snatched the fork from her husband’s hand, but witness would swear that she did not wrestle with her for its possession. She would also swear that she did not give accused a black eye, or knock her down. (Laughter.) On the Friday she waited till she thought accused had left the shop, and certainly witness did not strike her on entering the passage.
Mary Craigie, residing with her brother Alex. Craigie, deposed to meeting the prosecutrix outside the shop, and to seeing the two women struggling together in the passage. She did not know who commenced the struggle, and was so frightened that she ran outside and there fell down.
Cross-examined – After the assault she saw that accused’s finger was bleeding. She had also a cut on her lip, but did not think it was inflicted that day.
Hugh Craigie, a boy of thirteen, son of William Craigie, stated that the defender came to the shop to pay for some goods, and was aware that the prosecutrix was coming in, as the former made an observation to that effect. When the door opened he saw the two women all at once “tugging” behind the door. He did not observe the prosecutrix strike the defender, but he noticed that the former had her hands up before her face as if to protect herself.
The SHERIFF – Had the accused anything in her hand when she went out into the passage? – Witness – I did not see anything. There were some pots about, but no wood. (Laughter.)
Mr BUCHANAN – It appears to you that the one was struggling with the other – the one just as much as the other?
Witness – Yes.
The SHERIFF – You mean they were both equally affectionate? (Laughter.)
Mrs Margaret Jones or Wylie, now of Shapinsay, deponed that on the date in question she was a servant at Feolquoy. The prosecutrix came in bleeding. The blood was running from her head down upon her neck and shawl.
Catherine Thomson, who said that in November last she was in service at Feolquoy, stated that on the evening of the assault she spoke to defender, who stated that prosecutrix attacked her, kicked her on the leg, and struck her on the side. Defender at the same time admitted that she struck prosecutrix seven or eight times on the head with a piece of a barrel. She was not sure whether the word “barrel” was used, as the rumbling of the cart prevented her hearing properly.
George Craigie (husband of prosecutrix) said that on 7th inst. he was digging potatoes along with his wife at Feolquoy, for which he had his father’s permission. Defender came up, pushed his wife aside, and commenced picking up the potatoes they had dug. She then began using abusive language, and snatched the graip from his hand.
The SHERIFF – Did your father give permission to your brother to lift potatoes? – Witness – Not that I am aware of.
Witness (resuming) said accused then picked up the potatoes, put them in her “cubbie,” and threatened to mark his wife, and stone her in the dark.
By the COURT – There were four forks in the field, and he and his wife took the first that came to their hand.
Cross-examined – His wife and accused had a tussle on the field. He told them to stop that, and pulled the fork from under them. In his presence, his wife did not strike the accused with a stone. When James Craigie came on the field all was quietness.
The SHERIFF – Oh, the the Reserves were called out. (Laughter.)
No witnesses having been called for the defence, Mr COWPER moved for sentence, pointing out that the assault was not only a very serious one, but had been premeditated.
Mr BUCHANAN then briefly addressed the Court on behalf of his client.
The SHERIFF (addressing accused) – I must say it seems to me that this is a most unsteady case, and I should think that you must feel a very lively sense of shame at your position here today. It is bad enough when women who are strangers to each other come to blows, but when they are related the case becomes all the more aggravated and unseemly. I think there is no question at all that an assault was committed, and that the prosecutrix was injured and that somewhat severely; the only question remaining it appears to me is whether or not you received provocation. I am willing to take it that you did receive some provocation on the Friday when this attack took place in Mr Craigie’s shop, and also that this is not a case of premeditated assault. No doubt the dispute arose about this potato field. Apparently your father-in-law gave permission to Mrs Jane Gillespie or Craigie and her husband to dig potatoes, and evidently you felt aggrieved that this should be so. You proceeded to attack Mrs Craigie in the field, and I also take it to be proved that you did use threats. Whether you intended to put them into force I do not take it upon me to say, because I think the disturbance in Mr Craigie’s shop was not premeditated. There is not sufficient evidence to prove it; if there had been it would have been a very serious thing for you. The view I take of this case is that you met in this shop, and there being bad blood between you engendered by these potatoes, you both proceeded to use violence to each other. There is no doubt that the statement – and it is a very important one – made by Catherine Thomson of what you told her shows that the very best complexion that could be put on the case for you is that Jane Craigie did attack you when she came into the passage, and that you retaliated. I think the retaliation went very far indeed beyond what was justifiable. The only evidence that prosecutrix did attack you is that of the witness Catherine Thomson. If that statement is to be taken in your favour it must be taken as a whole, and taking it as a whole you told her that this woman, Jane Craigie, did hit you on the side and kick you, and that you struck her seven or eight times on the head with a piece of a barrel. Whether it is true or not, it is certain that when prosecutrix arrived at her father-in-law’s house she showed marks of very severe violence, and has sustained indeed, permanent injury. It is, therefore, my duty to inflict in this case a punishment such as will deter you from quarrelling and from attacking your relations again in such a manner. I think the lightest penalty I can inflict is to fine you £2, or in default a fortnight’s imprisonment. If I had been satisfied that this was an assault without provocation there would have been no alternative but to send you to prison for a somewhat lengthy period, but the view I take of this case is that it was a family quarrel, that you had some little provocation, but that you went far beyond what you were justified is doing.
1888 December 21 The Scotsman
A MINISTER CENSURED FOR NEGLECT OF DUTY. – A pro re nata meeting of the North Isles Presbytery, Orkney, was held in Cross Church, Sanday, yesterday, in consequence of a letter of complaint from some of the members of the congregation in Rousay with respect to an intimation made by the Rev. Mr Spark to the effect that he would preach in Rousay only once a month during the winter. Mr Spark admitted that he had made the intimation, whereupon the Presbytery expressed their disapprobation of his conduct, their regret that he had been guilty of the neglect of duty referred to, and enjoined him to reside within the bounds of his parish, and attend to the regular discharge of his duties. In consequence of the Rousay manse being under repair, Mr Spark has been residing in Kirkwall.